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on September 15, 2010
The reason I am recording my opinions on the ABS 10x12.5 stand: I purchased this ABSL kit, but received the ABS one instead. I have processed a return but did not feel confident that I will get the stand I actually purchased so I spent a few moments with this one. I will update the review when/if I actually get the item in this listing. Also know that I have not owned other background stands to compare this to.

UPDATE : 9/30/2010, Aaron Bennett:
I contacted Cheetah Mounts about the mix-up to make sure I could get the stand I originally ordered and they resolved the problem right away. It turns out that Amazon Fulfillment mixed up the two version of Ravelli's stands for a large number of customers. Check the comments to this review for contact information to purchase over the phone (their photography product website is not available at the time of this review), or just purchase from the "Sold by Cheetah Mounts" listings here at Amazon. You will need to process a return with Amazon, and repurchase from Cheetah if you ended up with the ABS version.

Ravelli ABS Stand (10x12.5):
The stand is what you would expect for $45. Very light, extensions slide fairly smoothly, horizontal bars connect easily, it's easy to pack away, and the reversible adapter is quite nice. The only problem is that with the stands expanded, it becomes somewhat unstable. This is quite important for me as I intend to use the stands as lighting stands when I'm not using it for a backdrop. It would be fine for a cloth as long as there is not a major tug or are not using it for heavier equipment.

Ravelli ABSL Stand (13x15)
This is a MASSIVE improvement over the ABS stand that I originally received. The linking/tightening joints are clearly different and feel sturdier and more stable; the hydraulics found within gently lower each section even when loaded. The stand is huge, and larger than I am likely to ever need (I prefer to overdo things). At full extension, the stand is very stable thanks to the thicker materials, better joints, and much wider base. I believe I got much more than I expected with this version of the stand, and believe it to be among the best values possible at around $80.

How to determine which you received:
ABS - three sections on stands, "ABS" written on box and manual, and 4 bar segments
ABSL - four sections on stands, "ABSL" written on box and manual, and 5 bar segments
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on June 26, 2013
This review is mostly for people using 107" paper rolls.

Short Version: This backdrop kit exceeded my expectation in every way except the crossbar design. It doesn't "lock" and is 1/8-inch too short (with 3 sections) to fit a 107" roll, and 2 inches too short if you actually want to unroll your paper.

The Long Version:

I am a professional photographer and needed to look for a new backdrop kit because I am opening my 3rd studio location.

When I received the Ravelli ABSL Kit, it came triple-boxed. Yes, triple. After removing 80ft of boxing tape, I was pleasantly surprised with how nice the carrying bag was, and when I took out the main stands, I found them to be of great, solid build; a lot sturdier than the kit I bought 5 years ago for about the same price. I even chuckled when I discovered that it came with 2 heavy duty clamps.

I was so excited about the product that I decided to set it up right away at my primary studio (location #1) and pack up the old stands to take to studio #3. I set up the stands and grabbed 3 sections of the crossbar assembly. I then realized that the crossbar sections don't actually lock. Looking back at other reviews, I found it's already been mentioned. No big deal, I said to myself, there's always duck tape. Then I mounted a roll of Savage brand 107" paper and found the bigger problem. With only 3 sections, the crossbar is 1/8 of an inch too short to hold a 107" roll. And about 2 inches too short if you actually want to unroll it. I stood there in disbelieve that a manufacture of a backdrop stand would design something that doesn't accommodate the most popular brand/width of backdrop paper rolls. With a sigh, I went ahead and connected a 4th segment. Now it's 34 inches too long. And as other reviewers already said, 4 segments are more saggy and not as strong as having only 3 segments. What saddened me more is that using 4 segments makes it too wide to place the assembly in my main studio space, which means I will probably go back to using my old kit and take the new kit to my new studio as it has more space width-wise.

One might argue that I may be too harsh for taking off two stars for the crossbar issues. After all, it's not the manufacturer's fault that my studio is not wide enough. My philosophy is that when you design a product, you should test it in real life situations. Savage is the leading manufacturer of backdrops, and 107" is a very popular width. Had the designer asked real photographers to test the product, they would no doubt be told of this problem. A well designed product should be practical in the application that it was made for. My suggestion to the manufacturer: Instead of having all 5 segments the same width, make 1 of the segments 4 inches longer. Or even better, make all of the center segments different widths so that the combination can yield the possibility of 8 different widths (instead of 4).

After studying the crossbars a little more, I decided to try to leave 1~2 inches of gap between segments instead of connecting them all the way. The interconnectors seem very sturdy that I believe it could sustain the stress without being fully inserted. Should this configuration hold up after a couple months of use, I will update this review and give it one star back. But for now, it gets three starts for getting me really excited and then getting me really disappointed all within 10 minutes.

For people who primarily use 53" rolls or muslin/fabric backdrops, this is a 5-star buy.

=== UPDATE 2/20/2014 ===

It has been several months since I've used gaffer tape to hold the center bar together without interconnecting them all the way. The cross bar is holding, which proves that the material used is very good. Some time in October of 2013, I've also received a telephone call from a representative from the manufacturer who became concerned after reading this review. I expressed why I was displeased with their product and they seem sincere in listening and hopefully will make proper adjustment to the product. As of this update, I've upgraded my review from 3 stars to 4 star for the product's durability.
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on February 1, 2011
I ordered this product after being dissapointed with a backdrop support from another company. I hoped this would be better. It came in and I could not believe the increase in quality over my previous purchase. Night and day.

What I found... This product is solid, stable, and the backdrop bar holds straight the full distance with a 10 x 20 muslin hanging on it.

My only wish is that I had started with this product!
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on April 17, 2012
I have used several backdrop stands as a professional photographer over the past 25 years. Though the Ravelli ABSL cost more than the ABS stands, I believe the ABSL kit is worth the price. They are less expensive and more durable than more expensive stands I have used in the past. It's easy to set up by yourself but I did have an assistant helping me. Takes only a few minutes to set up and tear down. I use handpainted 12 x 20 muslin backdrops. I use only three cross beams together. It holds them quite well. I'm confidant that I could put all 5 cross pieces together and it would hold it's load well. The base legs spread out wide enough to make it stable. Even with groups of 10-15 people moving on my backdrop, the stands were stable. My only complaint is that some of the plastic foot inserts aren't snug but that doesn't affect their performance. The carrying case is very well and cleverly designed using ballistic nylon and constructed with strong seams and stitching. One end "cap" of the case unzips open and another zipper runs the full length of the carrying case. The case also has two straps with quick release buckle fastners to keep the case closed. If the zipper ever failed, I feel comfortable that the two straps will keep it closed securely. There is a handle strap on each side of the long zipper. The handles come together and on one handle, there is a ballistic nylon fabric with velcro sewn on it to secure the handles together. It opens up with a stand on each side and the 5 cross beams fitting in the middle with two sets of elastic loops to secure the cross beams in place. 3 beams in one set and the other holds two. I put both end beams and one cross beam together just to make assembly time a little faster. The cross beams interlock easily and bolt on the stands. Though I didn't order it, there were two black backdrop clamps that came with my order. A nice surprise and I augment them with two additional clamps. I tried to put a couple of smaller stands in the carrying case to see how well they fit but it made the case very snug. The case was definitely designed to carry what came with the kit and nothing much more than a few extra clamps. Packaging was excellent. My order came in a 42 inch long carboard box. Inside that box was another box with the backdrop stand inside the carrying case. Although all the pieces were in it's place in the case, each piece including the two clamps were each individually wrapped in plastic to protect the finish. I'm not sure how well the finish will hold up with poles touching each other so I do take the time to put each piece back in its' own plastic sleeve after each photo shoot. I do on-location portrait work for formals so I want it to last and look as good as possible. The backdrop stands are very solid, they are light enough to carry easily. Overall I have been very impressed with this. I have novatron studio lights and I'm thinking about purchasing the Ravelli Light stands to replace the flimsy aluminum ones that comes with the novatron kits. If I have to do multiple location shots, I will order another set without hesitation. A note about shipping. I ended up ordering the stands on Saturday afternoon Mountain Standard Time. I needed it for a shoot that following Friday. Next day shipping was about $28.00 more than the two day shipping option. Since I ordered it on Saturday, both options showed it would arrive that following Tuesday. It arrived on Tuesday as indicated.
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on December 24, 2013
I purchase this item to be used with a Black, white Muslim backdrop. The backdrop is strong enough to hold the 10X20' backdrop. I have also used this with a 9' seamless paper backdrop and it works great. I take this with me to do on site photo shoots is light enough to care around and the case is able to withstand some abuse The problem with this unit is that the quality construction team must be sleeping because the first one I order two out of the 4 supporting poles became stuck and I was unable to loosen them I tried even using two pipe wrench to see If I can twist them back out but it was impossible. So I further checked and notice that the unit had poor quality control on the 4 supporting rods, the reason it became stuck is because the indentation that should be clearly made by the machine to allow the rods to twist lock was partly done, I am sure the machine that makes this needs calibration but this is the reason the unit became stuck since it was able to twist and lock pass the indentation part and that caused the whole thing to become stuck. I had to call and they were very helpful since they took the return without the two stuck rods since they would no longer fit in the box. I got a new unit as a replacement however it still has the same problem on the right side rod furthest to the end however this time I placed a Blue tape around it to remind me to be careful and not twist lock that rod because it will become stuck. I uploaded pictures for everyone to see what I am talking about. I would of given this 5 stars but the quality control is just not there and if someone had order this overseas and had to pay return shipment it would be a bad choice to buy. Nevertheless is important to know that the quality of built is hand in hand with the cost of the item. It gets the job done just be VERY CAREFUL NOT TO GET THE RODS STUCK TOGETHER BY TWIST LOCKING.
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on January 31, 2015
Works great, but there's one thing that's constantly grating: the pole to run through the backdrop is juuuuuust barely long enough to hold a 9' roll of paper, standard size. This means that the paper, unless it's PERFECTLY rolled up, constantly frays on the edges or hits the vertical support beams, or gets smashed against the tightening screws on the vertical support beams. It's really annoying.

This could be solved by simply making the top support pole about an inch longer, just to give it some room to work with. No functional reason to keep it so tight.
review image
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on August 23, 2011
-----UPDATED 11/19/15-----

I was recently contacted by CheetahMounts asking if I wanted to try out the newer version of this system. Given that my version from 2011 has still lasted me to date, I'd like to put in some words about this new system versus the older one.

First off, I have updated by review to a 5 star rating because this new system minimizes the sagging bar problem.

I say minimizes because the sagging problem still exists, however it is not as severe as it previously was, especially when using 5 bars. It's understandable that a sagging problem will exist, but the fact that they managed to minimize it to the point that I can see an obvious difference without even hanging anything on the bars shows that there's definitely an improvement that was had, mainly in the material of the bar and the strength of the interlocking pieces.

I used both of these (the old and the new) at a recent convention and found the new one more stable when trying to hang heavier cloths for backdrops. That's not to say the old one can still hold it's own, but I did find more relief in knowing that this new one has much lesser sagging which means faster setup times to get my customer's on the backdrop without having to adjust the fabric to remove wrinkles as much.

I'm still overall very happy with the system, and even happier that Cheetah Mounts was willing to send me another unit to review. I do love this system and when a company stands behind their product and is willing to improve on it through great customer feedback and integration I know that I've chosen the right backdrop and brand for my needs.

A big shoutout goes to Cheetah Mounts for their outstanding customer service. I feel like I've not only purchased a great backdrop, but also a great customer service crew to back it up and help me get the most out of my backdrop system.

---------- ORIGINAL REVIEW FOLLOWS (4 STARS) ----------
People weren't kidding when they said this thing was big.

The backdrop stands have a very large footprint, roughly 40". The poles themselves seem thick, and they're smooth to operate. I only have to use 3 poles in order to fit a 10x20, albeit with a little scrunching on the ends, but with a 4 foot bar this thing is 12 feet wide. Add another bar and you can go 15.

The instruction manual is helpful, and this kit comes with 2 heavy duty clamps (which I was not aware of) for keeping the fabric tight.

The bag is glorious. It's a really heavy duty bag with all metal zippers, and it holds the 2 stands and 5 backdrop bars quite snug.

The connecting of the backdrop elements are a bit loose for my liking, since you connect them and turn them 90 degrees to lock, but the bar itself is quite sturdy and will definitely last.

The bag is just long enough to fit into the trunk of my car (Toyota Corolla), albeit a bit diagonally.

The reason for the 1 star dock is that the bar actually sags a little bit when 4 bars are used. I haven't tried 5 yet, although I fear it will sag quite a bit, but a muslin that large doesn't exist yet, so for now I keep the system at 4 bars and consider the 5th bar an extra one in case someone needs to steal one for some reason.

Overall, this is a very nice backdrop set and I will update the review as I use it to see how it holds up.
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on October 25, 2010
As I was reading all of the earlier comments, I'm glad to say that I received the ABSL version the first time. Even though I'm just posing this, I purchased this item back in August. THIS STAND IS GREAT!!!!! Very sturdy, tall, and much more than I need! I love it because it gives me room to grow creatively. I did notice one slight difference in the one I have vs. the one advertised. Mine is 13' wide and 15' tall instead of the opposite mentioned within the description. If you need a stand above and beyond, literally, get this stand. Too bad I can't find a 13'x24' muslin backdrop or larger.
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on December 3, 2011
I have owned and have used this stand for a year now, and I love it! It is very sturdy, which is a must when shooting kids (my primary photography niche), and it packs up well in its case. The stand has a nice, solid feel to it, and yet it is still light enough to be portable. I can assemble and disassemble it on my own without difficulty. The carrying case is great; everything fits in it snug and secure, and I have had no trouble with broken zippers or ripped seams even though it gets lugged around a bit. I have only used up to 3 of the cross bars at a time (you would need a really big studio to use all five), but it was worth getting this set over a smaller one because of how much sturdier this one is. Plus, the price is great.

Carrying it in its case is awkward only in that it is long and you have to be careful not to whack anything when turning (as would be the case in carrying any long object). It fits just fine in the cargo area of my PT Cruiser. I imagine it wouldn't have trouble fitting into a standard trunk either. Broken down, it's about as long as a folded stroller.

When I bought this stand, many reviewers had posted about receiving the wrong model when selecting the "fulfilled by Amazon" purchasing option. I opted to have it shipped directly from CheetahMounts, forking over a few extra $ for shipping. I received the correct stand in perfect new condition the first time.
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on August 22, 2013
If you are not using 107 inch paper and/or you are not pressed for space in your studio you can move on from this review. This is a 5 star product.

My specific set of circumstances leads me to rate this stand as just OK. If not for my space constraints I most likely would have rated it 5 stars. As you can see from the other reviews the stand is sturdy and appears very well made. At this price point I doubt there is anything better. The light stands alone are worth the cost. My issue is with the length of the cross bar. With three rods assembled the crossbar is about an inch short of accommodating a roll of 107 inch seamless paper. It seems ridiculous to me that someone designing a background support would not take into consideration what is probably th most common length of paper that would be used on it. With three rods the pole is literally less than an inch too short. Sure you can just use the 4th rod but that requires a substantial bit more lateral space. Space that I don't have and probably would not want to waste if I did. If I were to nit-pick, the fact that the crossbar sections do not lock into each other could prove to be another issue. A bit of gaffers tape solves this problem though. I'll be keeping the stand because I think its a steal at this price but a bit of thought could have made it even better.
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