Thank you everyone who responded so far. I’m essentially in agreement with all the comments. I’m just curious about how other people approach this. Even without tilt complications, depth of field is a judgement call. Depending on the picture, I’m not always able to decide between having some element definitely in focus at the expense of some sharpness elsewhere, or having everything “acceptably” sharp. Sometimes it also seems best in to focus at infinity since distant objects require more definition to appear sharp. Often I will simply expose multiple sheets/frames focused differently, and then make the decision in the darkroom. It might seem odd to bracket exposures for focus rather than exposure/development, but I guess in the end who cares how you get to the final print, as long as you get there.
To clarify one thing, I’m referring tilt/swing movements in the context of the plane of sharp focus and depth of field. I have no issues with rise/fall/shift, and use those movements very often.
Poisson du jour: I agree in principle with pretty much everything you wrote. The problem I run into with tilts is I find the results difficult to judge on the groundglass – even after doing this for years. If I’m focusing on say a wall, with the standards parallel, I can see when it is in proper focus. It is either in focus or not. Once tilts are applied however, if is difficult to know exactly where the plane of sharp focus “cuts” the various objects in front of the camera, and where the depth of field limits are. So the reference point for judging focus is ambiguous. Looking at any given part of the scene on the ground glass, as I move the rear standard back and forth, yes I can it get sharper and fuzzier, but even where it is sharpest, is it actually sharp or just sharper than when it is clearly out of focus? Has the tilt made anything better or worse? (I’m probably just not explaining this properly). So I looked to Merklinger and other sources for some tools that would hopefully eliminate some of the uncertainty. Some of these things looked promising, but only on paper where the distances etc are easy to assess. In the field they seemed very difficult to apply.
CPorter: Regarding the hinge rule, how do you personally estimate the distance J?
Diapositivo: I agree one must be careful with standard depth of field tables and assumptions regarding the acceptable size of the CoC.