Standouts? There's hundreds of scientific, pseudo-scientific, and barroom reviews of Nikkors on the web. Few take into account unit and batch variations and many are "judged" in a manner that is patently inaccurate, such as the sharpness of tree leaves, as if the wind never moves them. Nikon often made design and optical changes and didn't make a big deal of it. Only by knowing you need 'this serial number or earlier', or 'that serial number or later' can you be mildly sure of something. (Whatever that might be. An Italian bicycle builder once said "A little mystery will keep us employed.")

I have three bogus rules I follow if I'm buying: 1. Try and ignore emotion. 2. Later lenses handle flair better (because of better coating technology). 3. Hand-holding and film speed destroys resolving power. Full stop. So you might want to throw away the charts.

With that out of the way here's *my* list of pre-Ai standouts:

Any 105mm f/2.5. Truly, the Alpha and Omega of Nikkors.
50mm f/2
24mm f/2.8

If you want my desert island scenario it's

28mm f/2
50mm f/2
105

Good luck, work 'em hard whatever you get, and don't forget to have fun.

s-a