Yes fabric is a more expensive option – and like anything not all fabrics are made equal.
Vinyl is cheaper as it is a plastic based material. It is designed for outdoor applications (such as billboards) so in terms of durability it is actually really great – it can handle 2+ years of outdoor weather and be relatively unscathed.
The challenge with vinyl is portability – it comes in a long tube as it has to be rolled – and that it’s just not made for this application. Companies sell it because it is the cheapest material on the market! The main issue is that when it’s not treated carefully, it becomes a mess of wrinkles – a problem that can’t be sorted. The second issue with vinyl is that it does not photograph well because plastic, by its very nature, is highly reflective and has no stretch in the material. Because of this, it is almost impossible to get it perfectly flat and any flash or light sources will show up as white patches in photographs – overall a bit of a headache.
Fabric, or at least the right fabric, fully side steps these issues: it photographs well, it’s flat & glare free, it can be folded without wrinkling (in some cases) and in most cases it has stretch!
Fabric prints are moderately more expensive than vinyl, but the prints can be shipped on the frame and the material ensures that there are no wrinkles, waves or billowing because it is stretched to size rather than hung from the frame. You can check out some shots of the step and repeat materials in our gallery.
Also, let me know and I can send you samples of the materials if you would like to check em out!
Hope that helps!