Thanks very much, Alan!
You should decide what focal length lenses you will use. I started using a Busch Pressman D 4x5; a press camera similar to the Crown but with rotating back. I could just barely use a 90mm on it, but 90mm wasn't wide enough for me. Switched off to a Tachihara. Extremely light weight, 3.5 lbs. I think. Ended up actually using a 65mm on a flat board; had to move the rear standard forward to use it. Not much room for movements though; the bellows were almost totally compressed but then the little 65mm f8 Acugon didn't have much room for movements anyway. Did end up with a recessed board to give me a little more movement. On the long end, I had a 240mm tele lens; plenty of bellows for it.
The problem with the Tachihara I found was it had a little play even locked down tight. Still, it worked fine.
Finally decided I had too many formats so sold the 4x5 and the 2 1/4 square and went with a 6x7 RZ. Damn thing weighs 3x what the Tachihara did.
Hope this helps,
On my Cambo (yes, I haul it into the woods), I use the 135mm and 210mm the most. I have a 105mm and rarely use it. I'm more likely to do close-ups than sweeping vistas. I think I use the 210mm the most, actually.
David, I was thinking of the HZX over the PTB. Will it be a big difference? I'm sorta starting to think that it won't really matter that much as the price is fairly close (even new) and the cameras don't seem to be hugely different.
Not much difference, a slight weight difference and bellows extension. They make an extension for the Chamonix as I have heard of lengths of 450mm. 300mm at infinity is about the limit for my HZX even with the Nikon M which is a compact and light lens.
I made a close-up photo of my blooming snake plant with my 210mm and had some extension left over. To get closer, I would be fiddling with the front standard and using the axis tilts. This does not lock down as tight as base tilt, especially with a heavy lens like my 250 or 210mm.
I am still happy with it.
When I purchased my Tachihara there was only one model of Shen Hao available and no Chamonix. I picked the Tachi over the Shen because of the brighter Tachi fresnel over the ground glass of the Shen, the ability to use a 90 on a flat board with no need for bag bellows, and it was a little bit lighter. The advantages of the Shen Hao is that it's a bit sturdier and if you like using wide lenses it will take a bag bellows. As far as looks go the Tachi has been called beautiful and it's been called gaudy. It does draw a lot of attention. I actually prefer the look of the Shen.
I have never held a Chamonix but people who's opinion I trust on the Large Format Photography Forum say it's the sturdiest of the three. The Chamonix is kind of weird in that when you unfold it you have a loose front standard which you place into a hole and tighten down. Check You Tube for the video on this. From what I have read owners don't seem to mind this.
If you like metal the Toyo's are really nice. A very good friend of mine owns one.
Both the metal and wood Wista's have big followings but are a little pricier.
I had an HZX for at least 8 years. The only reason I got rid of it was that I was using my 5x7 Canham a lot more and was doing lots of alt process contact printing. I loved that camera, though. They're extremely rugged, have oodles of movements, accessories for them are cheap, and they have good support (I lost a part, well out of warranty, and got a free replacement from I think Badger Graphic in the mail a couple days later). The Chamonix are a bit lighter, they do their focusing and movements (especially for the rear standard) a bit differently (they're a knock-off of the Phillips design). You can coax 14" (360mm) of bellows extension out of the Shen Hao, but you have to do it with a combination of front standard movements that's hard to explain in writing, but easy to demonstrate. I solved that problem by getting a Fuji 300mm f8 Tele, which has an infinity focus bellows draw of something close to 210mm, so you could actually focus it fairly close. With a 210mm, you can easily focus close enough for a tight head-shot, and get about 1:1.5 macro reproduction without using funny movements on the camera.