8 out of 10 points and recommendedprice, rangeweight, minimal focus distance
I have owned this lens for the past two years and continue to be pleasantly surprised by the sharpness and quality of the images. It is true that it is less sharp shooting wide open at f/2.8, but once you stop down to f/4 it is tack sharp. Some people have also complained about variations in quality, but that wasn't my experience.reviewed December 20th, 2006 (purchased for $800)
When I first received this lens I was convinced that it was too large and heavy to be useful. It took about one month before I really felt comfortable with it and I haven't looked back since. I also found the zoom ring to be quite stiff at first but it loosened up just enough. The lens is very rugged.
I often use it with the 1.4x teleconverter which does not detract from sharpness, but of course you lose one stop. Don't go for the 2x teleconverter, it seems to make the lens too soft.
The only downside is really the minimal focusing distance. The newest version of this lens incorporates a "macro" which solves this problem. If I could I would trade this in for this newer version just for the improved versatility in close-in work.
All-in-all, if you don't need VR or IS, this is a great lens.