I bought my 50, 1.4 AI, for $100 from a local guy. My take is that lenses are like every other durable good in that you can always wait for a better deal if you're patient enough. Don't settle, because your experience will be marked by your choices.
Just keep looking and researching about equipment in your area or nearby. Eventually, you'll find one that is right for you.
As some others have mentioned, a 1.4 AI/s lens is nice. I have one on my FE2 and it is a nice combination. You can find them on eBay quite regularly. Seem to go for $100 or so.
I've owned and used all three of the lenses you're considering, and I would go with the 50mm f/2 unless I thought I might want/need an autofocus Nikon in the future (sounds like you don't plan to go that route). The odds of an older manual focus Nikkor "breaking apart" are slim. They're built very well. Like others here, the normal lens I finally settled on is the 50mm f/1.4 Nikkor. Mine is an AIs, I picked it up for $75 from a local camera store; cosmetically, it's a beater but the glass is perfect (and this way it matches my F3, which is also quite experienced).
“Art is what we call... the thing an artist does." Seth Godin
There wasn't a 50mm f/2 AIS, only AI were made. I have an early AI version and it is excellent.
I'm stuck between the 50mm 1.8 Series E. 50mm f/2 AIS. and the 50mm 1.8D
As a curiosity, I have a 50mm f/1.8 AIS with rubber focusing ring and a minimum distance of 0.45m and no "rabbit ears". It is part of a series only sold in Japan, but I bought it second hand in the UK!
The series E and the latest AiS 1.8/50 without coupling has only a minimum distance of 0.6 m and has a simplified coating.
Fed 2, 4, 5
Zenit 11, 12XP
Olympus OM-1 MD, OM-1N, OM-2N, OM-2SP, OM10
A bunch of Nikons
B and H photo had it for 299 during christmas. Im sure it will be on sale again soon. .
Originally Posted by PhotoJim
And yes the normal 50mm 1.8 'long nose' is also an option. But it seems to be impossible to find locally.
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my 50mm f/2 AI is an awesome lens and it only cost me $36. It's quite sharp and a good compact size for the FE2 (I use mine on my FM2n regularly, as well as my F3).
I would definitely go that route if you don't want to spend a bundle. I do want to get the f/1.2 AI-s in the future though.
Mamiya 7II / Hasselblad 500CM
I love my 1.8D; I got mine new back around '06 and still use it often on my film bodies (all of which are manual focus, currently). I've even installed rabbit ears on mine so I can use it with my F2S!
It works beautifully on the FM/FE series. My FM2N with the 1.8D mounted will almost fit in a large coat pocket.
For anyone who doesn't like the manual focus ring, be aware that there are many different AF varieties with different focusing rings. Mine is the latest Made in China version and I actually like the manual focusing a lot: it isn't as good as other AF-D primes of the same era, but it's better than many AF-S lenses (I promptly returned my 35/1.8G because I was horrified by the "ratchety" focusing ring). When manually focusing with the 50/1.8D, you can feel the gears, but they are very smooth and they dampen the action a tiny bit. But it boils down to personal preference--I like my focusing rings to be a little looser.
Somebody above mentioned the short focusing throw of AF lenses, but I just did a direct comparison between the 1.8D and the 1.2 AIS and their focusing throws seem pretty close to me! I don't know what the exact degrees of rotation are. The 1.8D focuses closer than the 1.2 AIS.
Optically, the 1.8D is very good. There doesn't seem to be any noticeable barrel distortion (the 1.2 has some). Wide open, the 1.8 is "dreamy" and pleasant--almost reminds me of the effect of Efke Aura, but not as pronounced. The lens can be easily used for macro; I often simply hold it backward in front of the camera for an easy-to-use 1:2 reproduction ratio. I've even been using it for slide copying, although I suspect a real macro lens would be better for that.
Lastly, the 1.8D doesn't mind getting soaking wet, and the front element is recessed enough to keep the glass dry if you're careful. It also seems impossible to provoke ghosting flare.
Ok, just say it, maybe I will marry my 1.8D! One word of warning: if you do get a 1.8, or a 2, or even a 1.4, please know that the 1.2 will never stop calling.
timely thread as yesterday i dropped my FA with my 50 1.8d on it about 4 feet. it fell right on the lens and smashed the filter. the lens got crushed into itself and now will not focus. sucks but at least it is the cheapest lens to replace.
that aside the 1.8d is a very very sharp lens. stop down to 2.8 and mine WAS sharp all over. yes the focus is not as nice as the AI's but it works fine on my fe2 and FA. I am thinking of getting another 1.8d as i could still use it on my F5 and get matrix metering which is important for me with slide film, but would really prefer an AI for my other cameras (which work great on my D700 also).
I just bought the 50mm 1.8 Series E for 20 dollars. Really good condition too.
I'll see if more money should be put into my film kit. As I would like to put money into my canon kit first.