This is a review of version 1 of the lens without VC.
The size and heft of this lens is great when paired with my Nikon D300. The included petal hood is reversible for storage and contains a ribbed, matted finish on the inside.
Image quality is great on this lens, tack sharp center at f/2.8 with some softness in corners, but completely fine by f/4. However there is also some minor vignetting when shooting at f/2.8 and barrel distortion on the wide angle of the lens (17mm - 22mm).
My experience with the build quality with the lens is fantastic. This lens is usually suggested as an alternative to the pro Canon/Nikon f/2.8 zoom equivalents but my lens has been through plenty.
I have dropped my camera lens first (with battery grip, hood reversed) 6' on a parking lot pavement. The reversed hood suffered some road rash, but the lens is otherwise fine.
This lens is not considered weathered proofed, but I have gone mountain hiking with it a few times. It has weathered through torrential rain and caked in the mud up to 8 hours.
Solid lens build, paid a great price (before weak dollar and resulting price adjustment), great image quality with some manageable drawbacks.