John, your second question first. I’ve never owned a Fox, Parker or Smith so no experience there to draw on for an answer.
And that points to my answer to your first question. With dollars always scarce and value at a premium Ithacas have been my choice over the decades and I’ve not been disappointed. For your criteria I’d say my eve-of-the-war 16ga NID w/ 26” barrels, cyl & mod, would be my choice @ 6 lbs, 3 oz.
However, as I get older and walking becomes more difficult my 16ga Flues w/ 28” barrels, cyl & mod, @ 5lbs 6 oz gets the nod more often. But with the original 2 1/2” chambers and a senior diet of low pressure handloads you’d be best to leave off with the pheasants.
Regardless, enjoy the best you can afford.