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I owned both lenses and, while in the same ball park optically, the IS version was a notch better: virtually no flare shooting into the setting sun, a wee bit sharper and closer focusing and has moisture and dust seals. True, IS is normally not needed on a tripod, but when you need it, nothing else will do. Incidentally, IS can be very useful a on tripod under high vibration situations, e.g., shooting in strong gusts or on shaky floors (bridge traffic).
If anything, you experience normal product variation within the line, perhaps accompanied by the warm glow that comes from owning a newer and more expensive product... ;-)
Both are excellent, and one will see no difference in IQ in photographs, even in very large prints.
If you find IS necessary then buy a lens with IS.
I have no need for IS at 70mm or 200mm. I can easily hold the lens steady at those focal length. IS does nothing to stop a moving subject.
Well, yes. And congratulations to your on your remarkable rock-steady hands. However, no matter steady you are, IS does extend your ability to shoot at even longer exposure times without detrimental effects from camera vibration. Let's imagine that you can hold a 200mm lens perfectly steady at 50mm - enough so that no one will notice any camera motion blur in a 24" x 36" print. With IS you can now shoot the same subject at a few stops longer shutter speed.
If you always shoot from the tripod and if you are never limited by camera/lens stability but only by shutter speed and if you don't print very large... it totally makes sense to forego IS. It also makes sense if you need 70-200mm and can only afford it if you go without IS. However, for most photographers there will be times when IS turns out to be critical. (I have a story about a shot that I licensed that I simply would have missed had I not had an IS equipped lens on my camera.)
I remember reading on another forum that the IS version is not as sharp as the non IS at the minimum focus distance , is this correct ?
it does not sound right to me
The IS version has an issue at 200mm and minimum focus distance (MFD) and wide open apertures. Basically you'll get a softer image, which I think is the result of halation more than of lack of resolution. Stopping down a bit helps. I cannot say whether or not the same issue exists on the non-IS version of the f/4 lens, though I never noticed it with that lens and I have noticed it with the IS version.