With reference to the other thread I just started, the wide dilemma, I'm also looking for a 50mm'ish lens. Currently, I use a Sigma 50mm f/2.8 macro, and while it's convenient to have a close focusing lens and a sharp one at that, I hate everything else about this Sigma, particularly the brutal contrast.
Again, I'm drawn towards manual focus, but will consider all options. Here are some of the most obvious:
Micro Nikkor 55mm f/2.8 AiS
I've never tried this lens, but I know it has many followers, which I guess is one of the reasons why it's still a current lens from Nikon. Reasonably priced too, new or used.
Zeiss 50mm f/2.0 Macro
Again a lens to lust for. More expensive than the Nikkor. How much better is it?
Sigma 50mm f/1.4 Art
The obvious choice. A bit large for my taste, but not heavier than the Zeiss. I'm particularly interested in hearing how well it works with manual focusing.
Nikkor 50mm f/1.8 AF-S
A lens that is so cheap that it's hard not to list it. I had the old AF D, and managed to get some decent results out of it, but it didn't make the greatest of emotions thunder through the room.
Others? Voigtlander? Zeiss 50mm f/1.4? Nikkor 50mm f/1.2 AiS? Preferably not over $1,000.