First off, I am using this lens on the D700.
I bought my copy used off ebay. The lens I got was cosmetically in mint condition. The catch? It front focuses. After a lot of testing, I managed to correct it to the best of my abilities with Nikon's AF Fine Tune. My copy needs +6 correction.
The lenses uses the same crinkled finish as Nikon's 80-200 AF-D, and 84 1.4D and as such it feels like a quality piece of equipment. The only nit pick you could have, is that the aperture ring, looks like it's come off the Nikon 85 1.8D, with glossy plastic, and as such, feels out of place, next to the rest of the lens.
This lens weighs 760 grams. Compared to the Nikon 70-200 VR (1470grams), this lens is 710 grams lighter. Compared to the 70-300 VR (745 grams), it's 15 grams heavier. So as far as weight goes, it feels pretty much the same as the 70-300VR. With the 180 f2.8 IF ED, the focusing ring, is raised over the main part of the lens so my hand doesn't seem to grip the lens in the same way. Not something you could really fault the lens for, but it just feels 'different'. I suppose you could say it's like having a strip of material over the lens barrel as opposed to being 'part' of the lens barrel with the two zooms mentioned.
Focusing manually requires both the body and lens be switched to M, unlocking the lens from the body. The focusing action is smooth. Not loose like the 70-300VR, or 24-70, but not dampened like with AI-S lens or other manual focus lenses for that matter.
I haven't tested this lens with any sort of moving subjects, but as far as locking onto a stationary target goes, the D700 provides enough torque for the lens to snap to focus quite quickly. I suppose I would compare it to the 85 1.8D. Not as fast, but good for an AF-D lens and I don't find myself wishing it was faster.
I was expecting this lens to be super sharp wide open. Similar to the Nikon 24-70 in fact. I suppose that really is a tall order, expecting a lens that was released in the early 90's to compare to a lens that was released in Nov 200. In tests done by photozone.de, the 180 f2.8 IF ED, scores slightly lower in sharpness wide open. I realise their test was performed on the DX format, but as a comparison goes, at least for centre sharpness I suppose I can't really complain. I've done tripod based tests as well as normal shooting, and if you aren't pixel peeping, you won't be disappointed. That's not to say the lens performs poorly wide open. I just don't think it's one of those lenses you shoot something and then go and look over every little detail in the shot. Stopping down doesn't make everything tack sharp either.
Overall, the rendering of oof areas/bokeh is very pleasant and that's where this lens excels. For the price, and weight, this is a great lens.
(The few pics I've shot so far that felt like sharing are in the sample pics section)