I shot a party the other night, in a succession of bars. Around here we call that a Pub Crawl . And I was crawling after the 3rd shot . I was a guest but wanted to present the hosts (some friends) with a decent set of images for what was their wedding party (not your typical formal wedding party).
Anyway, I shot it with the 16-35 and the 50/1.2 Ai-S. I would have rather shot it with an AF 1.4 lens for a lot of reasons. I'm not good at focusing in very low light; the exposure on the F/4 lens was ISO 6400 1/20s and I was still a stop short but made it up in post. I thought that something like that was a very good combination. I had speed when I needed it, and the 16mm came in handy in the tight qaurters of the tiny bars I shot in. Plus the ultra-wide perspective was a lot of fun to play with.
Just to say you are presenting a set of choices above that are more or less mutually contradictory.
I thought this was the best image of the evening; it was an important image and I didn't blow it . The bride and groom were toasting to the bride's late father, who apparently had a taste for Vodka. I got a nice tight image of the toast at 35mm...
and just before that I was able to capture the entire scene at 16mm. I shot with the camera above my head at arm's length. As usual I did not have it tilted down far enough, but I'm working on that. Cropping out the ceiling helped; this is the uncropped original.
I thought the VR on that lens was helpful, allowing me to concentrate on subject motion problems. The only camera shake issues I had with that lens was a series shot high over my head that I managed to completely blow (and don't understand but I was well into a 3 shot handicap at that point so I won't worry about it).
And one of my better shots with the 50/1.2 Ai-S, wide open. It would be so much easier with a 50/1.4 with AF. But the point being that this is a much different image, I guess you have to make a choice which way you want to improve things, flexibility or those bokeh (and maybe really low light) shots.
Personally I would go for the ultra-wide end, something you gave up completely by trading in the 12-24 DX. And I would pick up a used 50/1.8 AF-D for what... $100 or so?. And worry about getting wider/faster (35/1.4 or similar) later after further fiscal recovery.
As compelling as the 20-35 might be, I would go wider. But that's me. I like playing with that ultra-wide stuff and I am still rethinking the decision to go with the 16-35 vs 14-24. I could have used that extra stop the other night.