Best 50? 50/1.025 Krappicron for the Krapca camera, made by the famous firm of Kreitz, Weltzar.
What does this trollish little question have to do with photography?
And why do opinions matter? Most of us have too little experience with a wide range of lenses to reply much more than "I have an X and its ok" or "I've heard the Y is ok."
And when we have used lots -- I must have tried scores of 'standard' lenses over the last 40 years, whether they were real 'users', came with collecible cameras or passed through my hands when testing them for magazines -- our reaction tends to be, 'What do you mean by 'best'?'
Originally Posted by Dan Fromm
I don't think the question is trollish; just naive.
I forgot to mention my Nikon 55mm f2.8 AIS micro. Lovely lens.
There are 2 ways of thinking "best"
1. Best in a way that MTF charts and other measuring machines and technical characteristic shows as best, and
2. Best in a way you like photographs made with that lens more than others
If 1 is what you asking then Leica, Zeiss, Voigtlaender, Nikon, Canon, and others... not allways this order, but for Leica and Zeiss at first two places for sure.
If 2 is what you asking, sorry, nobody can answer that for you...
Hmm, this leads to Roger's other thread.
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What is todays best normal (50-55-58mm) lens?[I][U]
Same as it's always been -- Pentax SMCP f:1.4, followed closely by the DR Summicron.
Some very good lenses have already been mentioned. I see in your original post that you mention fast lenses, though the best 50mm to 58mm lenses from many manufacturers have not been their fastest lenses. Several f1.7 or f1.8 lenses fall into that, and even a few f2.0 lenses. I always felt the 50mm f2.0 from Leica was better than any of their f1.4 lenses, though I have yet to try the absolute latest version. In Nikon lenses, I have never tried the rare and expensive 58mm f1.2, though I did use the not so great 50mm f1.2, and went through a few f1.4 AIS versions before finding a good one. The one that I feel produces the nicest images is the 50mm f2.0 AI long barrel version, a lens dismissed or ignored by many.
I rarely use 50mm lenses at infinity. My preference is for close in shooting. I think when people only look at MTF charts, they might be missing some aspects; those charts are a good starting point, but I think seeing image examples can help.
One surprising (to me anyway) lens I saw some examples from recently was the re-issue from Nikon of the 50mm f1.4 S on the S3 Millenium rangefinder. Basically the same as the original design, with modern coating, and maybe slightly different glass. What surprised me was how good the images were from something that was designed a long time ago.
A G Studio
I use the Canon FDn 50mm F1.4, because thats the one that fits my cameras, I have had it for nearly twenty years and it is still a better lens than I am a photographer, if and when my photography improves I'll thank about getting a better one.
In Nikon land I have used the 50 F1.2 and found it to be really hard to get sharp focus anywhere, when used wide open.
I have used 50 f1.4 but gave it back after a 4 week trial, I then opted for the 50 f1.8 and found it to be really nice. Still have that one.
In the meantime I have had a Micro Nikkor 55mm f2.8 AIS for the last 20 years and I would say it's the best 50-55-58mm lens I have had the pleasure of owning/using, because of it's all round ability.
It is very sharp across the whole width of the frame, suffers virtually no flare because of it's recessed front element, close focuses to ½ life size without spacers and will do lifesize with the PK13 spacer. Takes 52mm filters which are common and not highly priced. When attached to bellows it is terrific for duping and/or high(ish) magnification work.
It's slightly longhish length, means you can do acceptable head shoulder portrait work.
In short it does a real lot of different things easily and well.
The best lens is one that you like and fits your artistical requirement and you still is able (afford) to use. This is really very practical answer without pretending on philosophy.
Just one example: what a point is Leica Summicron-R 2/50 to one that do NOT want details in shade and mostly use F11 with iso400 film.
So short answer is: there is not such a lens as universally the best lens. It does not exists.