Why I Don’t Like the New AI AWB on the Fujifilm X-T5

Fujifilm used “deep-learning AI Technology” to improve Auto White Balance on the X-T5 (or, more accurately, on X-Trans V cameras—not just the X-T5). According to the promotional statement, the camera is able to more accurately identify warm tints, and adjust to compensate for that when using Auto White Balance. Sounds impressive, right?

When I first learned about this, I was a little concerned that the new Auto White Balance would affect Film Simulation Recipes that use AWB. So I took a few test shots with the X-T5 and an X-Trans IV model side-by-side to compare, and I didn’t notice any difference between the two regarding white balance. It looked the same to me. But now that I’ve used the X-T5 a little longer, I do, in fact, at times notice something that I initially overlooked.

In the banner above, which comes from Fujifilm’s promo materiel for the X-T5 (even though the X-H2 has this same feature, it wasn’t promoted with that camera), you can see the “conventional model” vs the X-T5 AWB rendering in identical light. I assume that the so-called conventional model wasn’t a Sony or Canon, but an X-T4 (or other X-Trans IV camera). I personally prefer the more golden rendering of the “conventional” AWB to the copper rendering of the AI AWB, but each has their own tastes, so there’s no right or wrong answer. Perhaps you prefer the image on the right over the one on the left. It’s definitely subjective.

Something I have noticed—and I don’t like—is that this new rendering is inconsistent. From one exposure to the next, with identical lighting and identical settings, you can get something more like the “conventional model” rendering or something more like the AI AWB rendering. I’ve noticed it in artificial light, and I’ve noticed it in golden-hour/sunset situations. Two exposures, one right after the other—nothing’s changed—but the camera produces two very different tints when using AWB. Take a look at the two pictures below for an example of this. They were captured under identical light with identical settings, but they clearly aren’t identical. This was in a set of 32 pictures (of my son opening birthday gifts); 19 had the golden-ish cast and 13 had the copper-ish cast (these are frames nine and ten, for those wondering).

Obviously if you are a wedding or event photographer, and you rely on Auto White Balance, this could be a big issue for you, because you want consistent results. You don’t want the white balance to be bouncing back-and-forth between two tints. I don’t even want it for my son’s birthday pictures! If the camera chose one rendering in the situation, and consistently applied that to each image, whether gold or copper or something else entirely, that’s fine—it’s what is expected to happen—but bouncing between renderings is bad and should not happen. If you can’t trust AWB, and if it’s a tool that you commonly use, the X-T5 (or any of the X-Trans V models) might not be the camera for you.

Of course, for many people this might not be an issue whatsoever. Maybe you don’t even use AWB. Perhaps you do but you don’t care if the results are different between exposures. It could be that you’re going to adjust white balance in software later anyway, so what the camera records makes no difference to you. If that’s you, and none of this matters to you, great! But I do want to point it out for those who it might matter for, because they should know. It’s better to find out now before dropping so much money on something that’s just going to frustrate you.

I imagine that this is something Fujifilm could fix fairly easily via a firmware update. A simple tweak to the code could possibly make this behavior happen much less frequently. Fujifilm should address this issue. I hope in a few months from now this will all be a past problem that was fixed and forgotten. Or it could be the expected behavior that all Fujifilm X-Trans V cameras will have, and it will only be fixed by an even more improved AI-AWB on X-Trans VI models. Time will tell.

See also: Five Fujifilm X-T5 AI AWB Workarounds

25 comments

  1. Gary Rossbach · December 21

    Oy. Really. Why ruin a good thing, Fuji?
    So, any difference using selected WB vs Auto?
    Good bad catch, if you get what I mean. I’m headed to Tanzania w my T3 and new T5.
    So I guess I better go experiment on the dogs before we leave.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ritchie Roesch · December 21

      If it ain’t broke… break it? I don’t know how big of a deal this is, but I hope it isn’t a big deal for you in Tanzania.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Gprossbach · December 21

      I hope so to. When it warms up next week I can get out and try some shots. Or in the house over Christmas. That’d donas well. Let u know.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Tommen · December 21

    I hope this AI fad wears off sooner rather than later. In 99% of the time it’s just marketing wash, anyway.

    At least give us the option to turn the AI off, please.

    Like

    • Ritchie Roesch · December 21

      I think an Enable/Disable option would be a good workaround, if Fujifilm is looking for one.

      Like

  3. Ryan Long · December 21

    This seems like a solution in search of a problem. I’m more interested in a consistent (even if imperfect) application of white balance (and exposure) across a series of photos.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Karl Reif · December 21

    Dear Ritchie,
    There is an easy and direct solution for this problem. I seldomly use AWB at all. But when I use it I use it together with the AWB lock. I have set one function button to switch the AWB lock on or off. So when I think the AWB has found the right colours, I switch the AWB lock on as long as I stay in the scene. When I leave the scene I turn it off.
    Hope that helps
    Karl

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ritchie Roesch · December 22

      That’s a smart way to handle it. Unfortunately, it’s an extra step, plus you have to train yourself to unlock it, both of which you shouldn’t “have to” do, but it is a good workaround. Thanks for the tip!

      Like

  5. clovenguth · December 21

    Is this not where the 2 new Auto WB modes of WBw and WBa (white and ambiance priority) come in to help out? Or is it all three auto WB modes having a “dealer’s choice” in picking the white balance?

    Like

    • Ritchie Roesch · December 22

      I think it’s just plain ol’ AWB, and not the other two, but I’m not 100% certain. I’ll try to find out, though.

      Like

    • Jeremy · December 23

      I was curious about this too. I’ve played around with the two new priority ones a bit but not enough to pick one over the plain AWB yet.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Ritchie Roesch · December 27

        I think Auto White Priority makes the most sense in indoor artificial light situations. Auto Ambiance Priority might be interesting if you’re using Tungsten-like settings and don’t want to render too blue? I think Auto White Priority is the more useful of the two. I haven’t used either enough yet on my X-T5 to know if they are plagued by the same inconsistencies as AWB.

        Like

  6. Erik · December 22

    As a casual photographer, I can empathize with the frustrations. I’m just coming into fuji, so from past experiences with other AWB (and I feel that any awb is some sort of AI if not for modern marketing), awb can be a crapshoot under certain conditions.

    This is where shooting a wedding, or anything I’d find important I would likely do two things. 1. Shoot raw+jpg so I can go back and change wb consistently if needed afterward and 2. Have a gray card and shoot it in each setting.

    Sure it’s more work than relying just on jpgs, but it is a nice insurance policy when you livelihood depends on a consistent product.

    Auto is definitely not foolproof. But, we’ll see. I’m hoping the x-t5 will help me rely less on raw, but maybe not if the AWB is inconsistent.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ritchie Roesch · December 22

      I would, if I were a wedding or event photographer (while I have done both, it’s not my cup of tea), utilize the Custom WB options, and make measurements in the various lighting scenarios at the event, and use that instead of AWB. But everyone has their own techniques that work for them—I know of several people (talented and successful photographers) who do rely on AWB for this type of work. Auto is definitely not foolproof, and unfortunately I feel it took a step backwards (my opinion) with X-Trans V due to more inconsistency between shots. I appreciate the input!

      Like

      • Erik · December 22

        Sure… and what I was suggesting isn’t to ditch AWB but rather a photo of a gray card can give a reference if their are problems afterward. I shoot raw+ so that I can lean on jpg but sync wb after the fact if needed with the raw files. I’ve been shooting digital for over 20 years and have been bitten by awb issues the whole way (occasionally). But, not using awb has caused me more issues, so I usually stick with it. Raw just lets me tweak the few shots that are wrong. I’ll have to see how things are vs my dslr since I don’t have the wisdom you do from older xtrans.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Ritchie Roesch · December 22

        I guess I was thinking strictly JPEG and not RAW editing. The grey card reference is an excellent easy solution. I think, in general, Fujifilm does a good job with AWB, and it certainly beats using color correction filters like in the film days. 😀

        Like

  7. Richard · December 22

    I’m guessing that the shutter speeds for these images are not multiples of 60 and that the camera is sampling a slightly different light with each shot based on the refresh rate (60hz) of the room lighting. If this is the case its not the cameras fault all it is doing is setting white balance based on the light at the instant the photo is taken and the fact the light is slightly different with each shot.

    Like

    • Ritchie Roesch · December 22

      The settings were identical, including 1/125 shutter speed. The lights are incandescent (old fashioned bulbs, not led or fluorescent). Good theory, but I don’t think it’s true in this case.

      Like

  8. Francis.R. · December 22

    The AI is in beginner mode, like me when I discovered WB I used to try whites to always be white; or my Sigma DP2 which I forced in settings to sunny but jumps from greenish Matrix to bluish half developed film. In the photo I prefer the golden tones in the right, it is how I would remember the scene, at the left is more about how machines can register reality.

    A.I. asisted white balance should be not much about matching neutral targets but recognizing scenes. Some scenes like portraits in indoors at night require more neutrality than the glasses in the example, as glass not reflecting the lights in its surroundings isn’t natural.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ritchie Roesch · December 22

      I agree! The “intelligence” should be used more to recognize what is being photographed, and how to best render that subject or scene in the light that’s there. Because it’s not doing that, it makes a weird cast sometimes that’s not really appropriate for the subject. Thanks for the comment!

      Like

  9. Nippon · December 25

    this is similar to the AWB of my nikon d610, it can also take the tint in some direction with a slight change in the same light conditions. Do you think the 610 also uses a AI AWB? =)
    OF course this is a joke, but it is surprising that the old problems of inaccurate white balance now arise in the latest developments where AI are involved.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ritchie Roesch · December 27

      It is interesting. I’m sure there’s a curve whenever something new is introduced, and it will get better in time. I hope that they can sort this out with a patch soon. Thanks for the input!

      Like

  10. Kevin · 19 Days Ago

    I’ve noticed it too! Even though I could not identify ut like you did.

    Hopefully a fix is coming.

    Liked by 1 person

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