Personally, I think you're putting the cart before the horse..
The problem with studio lighting and equipment is that unless you get moderate to good equipment, the results you expect won't be as forthcoming as you desire..
Regarding your software setup, I would suggest using a camera body that incorporates instantaneous wireless transmission of your pictures to a laptop. The Nikon D200 allows for this capability for an extra $300 on top of the camera body cost. I know that others have this ability as well, but I don't know which Canon bodies allow for it. Regardless, it is a far better solution because teathered shooting through the computer is a pain in the ....
Back to your lighting equipment now: You need to be absolutely sure that you like the lights you will be using. Test them out, find a big city with a big camera store, and ask to see good lighting and okay lighting; and find out what you can live with. As you probably already know, individual lights can cost as much as a camera body itself! But with some real, hands-on testing, you can find out which lights will work the best for you. And, you should at least buy something for the learning you receive for your visit as a practical matter of gratitude..
To summarize, I think you're pushing it a little here. Slow down, research more, especially hands on, and then you won't have to ask if this or that light is good for you; because you'll know. If you would however desire to have some lower cost alternatives to Alien Bees lighting, then post a question in the lighting forum. Those guys know everything about all that stuff, and what to stay away from. But it is probably best not to ask about a specific lighting set up because unless it is appreciably popular like the Giottos you mention, then it might not be widely known for it's limitations. Regarding your specific question, why do you think the person is selling the equipment? Not working as well as thought is my guess. But the Lighting guys might beg to differ if it is a popular system...
You could use that eyefi SD card that was reviewed on here. It automatically transfers pictures to a computer over wifi. I'm not sure it's out yet but it will be soon, and I think you can only transfer jpegs so no raws..
I just realized you are using a Canon that takes CF, so I guess you would need a compact to SD converter as well..
Hmm... I already have a Canon XTi, so I don't think I want to invest in a Nikon just for the wifi transfer capability. I don't like the idea of my camera being tethered to a PC via USB cable.. but I don't think I have any other choice..
As for the studio setup.. yeah.. you're probably right in that I'm rushing into this a bit.. thats just sort of my Modus Operandi with most things. LOL But, I process information much faster when I have my hands on the equipment.. which is probably why I became a mechanical engineer, instead of a electrical engineer..
Anyway.. If everything listed is in good condition, I think the price for what I'm getting is too good to pass up.. $300 for the 2 backdrops, the backdrop stand and the 3 lighting stands, (incl the Giotto), 2 umbrellas and 2 flashes. I think the backdrop stands and backdrops retail for more than $300 alone.. so even if the lightstands, umbrellas and flashes aren't very good.. I'm still good with the backdrop and backdrop stand.
I think I'll be able to practice more and learn whats good or bad for a reasonable price....
Since price seems to be important, it looks like this setup, though not of professional quality, may be a good place to start. I don't know the details on the Spiralites, but it looks like one may be wired to the camera with a OC cord nad the other is a slave. Look out for the voltage on that old Spiralite. You may need a sync adapter to protect your camera..
An inexpesnive solution to get your pictures into the computer while you continue shooting may be just to get a few memory cards. After a few settings, you can switch cards with your assistant who can load the batch onto the computer. Just keep switching cards as you work..
Give us some samples after you make the shoot..
That's a good suggestion unless that tethering works well for you, because it's been my experience that tethering is a pain..
Sure, get the lighting; it's not that much of a gamble at that price. I used a cheap lighting system for awhile myself and it was less than acceptable; but it looked good. LOL! Anyway, I found out that it was better to use bouncing flash than it was to use cheap lighting. A good flash with an external battery pack will run around $600 or so, even more if you want a mounting bracket to get the flash further away from the lens to eliminate red-eye although I found that using the bounce technique removes red-eye problems for the most part anyway. But the mounting bracket sure does make one look to have a professional setup; which is part of the deal in my opinion. You'd rather have a guy with a tie than a guy in jeans and a t-shirt, so looks are important.
If you find that a good external flash works better than those lights, don't be afraid to ditch the lights. I don't know what Canon offers, but the Nikon Speedlights can all work as slaves to eachother in 3 groups and you can have lots and lots of them all at once. It's actually cheaper than alien bees. Here's a pretty cool website of working with light...http://www.daveblackphotography.com/workshop/0408.htm.
If anything, you're getting a backdrop out of the deal & you can always resell the lights yourself if you find that you can get better results with just an external flash like whatever the Canon's equivilent to the Nikon SB-800 is. That was my experience, and it could be yours. Plus, I just didn't like being "wired". Anyway, good luck, & I hope that my suggestions help to at least give you another option besides $1000 per light, which is prohibitively expensive for many of us...
The wrong flash can be more trouble than it is worth, and I've lost track of when Spiratone flash units were made, but I think it was a long time ago..
Anyway, I'd avoid them..
The backdrops, etc. are not a bargain if you don't want them for other purposes..
If you want to get serious about flash, go visithttp://www.alinebees.com and you'll get excellent equipment at very good prices..
One SB800 and a 50 inch, or so, umbrella, is all you need, except for a way of connecting the flash sync cord to the camera. Alien Bees sell this, too, (it's a little box that fits on the hot shoe, and which accepts the "fre" sync cord that comes with the flash unit.)or, if you can find $80, get the radio transmitter and receiver..
To look at the photos, you can simply take the memory card out of the camera and put it into the computer. Depending on the computer model, this works very easily..
That said, don't think you can start and stop the shooting and then start and stop photo reviews..
If you have someone else to manage the review times, and you take the pictures, you can switch back and forth between two memory cards..
The more I think about it, the more 'm thinking that the USB cable is going to be a pain..
I've got 2 young ladies from the school that could help me out, they are both very good at selling stuff.. so they would do that while I'm taking the pictures..
I considered just swapping memory cards after every 2 or 3 picture sets , since I've already got 2 of them, but I was concerned about breaking the cards or damaging the camera with so many repeated removals and replacements. I know they're designed to be swapped out, it's just something that had me concerned...
Lots of GREAT feedback.. keep it coming...
The more I think about it, the more 'm thinking that the USB cable isgoing to be a pain..
There is nothing wrong with shooting tethered, it works well. It works much better than a wireless coupling, which sounds like a good idea, but is much too slow..
Anyhow, try it out before you make that decision. You don't need to someone else to tell you how well it works them, find out how well it works for you..
Hmm... I already have a Canon XTi, so I don't think I want to investin a Nikon just for the wifi transfer capability.
You could use this plus the eyefi.
Eyefi at Amazon.
Thats a wireless 2GB CF for $120.
I think this would be the best for an untethered aproach..