Five Fujifilm X-T5 AI AWB Workarounds

Yesterday I stated that I don’t like the inconsistent results from the new AI Auto White Balance found on the Fujifilm X-T5 and the other X-Trans V cameras. This isn’t a problem for most people, I don’t think; however, if you are a wedding or event photographer (or someone who needs consistent rendering over a series of pictures), if you use Film Simulation Recipes and rely on the out-of-camera JPEGs, and if you commonly use Auto White Balance, this is an issue you are likely to encounter, and you will surely be frustrated by it.

For those who are looking for a workaround to this problem, I want to offer you five potential solutions that might be helpful. None are perfect, so I hope that Fujifilm addresses this with a firmware update in the near future, but in the meantime perhaps one of these will be at least ok for you.

1. Use a Film Simulation Recipe that doesn’t use AWB yet matches the lighting conditions. For example, if you will be photographing indoors under artificial light, instead of using AWB, try Serr’s 500T (which uses a specific Kelvin temperature) or CineStill 800T (which uses Fluorescent 3). While AWB recipes are easy to like because of their versatility (Jack-of-all-trades), Auto White Balance won’t always deliver the best results. You’ll have to figure which recipe might be most appropriate for whatever it is that you are photographing, and there could only be one or two that will really work well; however, if you can match the recipe with the scene and situation, that’s when you’ll get the best outcome.

2. Use Custom White Balance. Instead of using Auto White Balance, take a custom white balance measurement in each lighting condition that you encounter. Your camera has three Custom White Balance banks, so you can take a measurement in up to three different situations at the beginning, and just switch between the three banks as you move throughout the event. For example, Custom 1 could be for outdoors, Custom 2 could be for the reception, and Custom 3 could be for the dressing room. If the light changes significantly due to (for example) the sun’s position in the sky or cloud coverage, you might have to remeasure at various times. You’ll have to remember to switch to the appropriate Custom White Balance bank as the light situation changes.

3. Use Auto White Balance Lock (AWB-L). This feature allows you to lock onto a specific white balance for as long as you keep it locked. To do this, first, while in the Shooting Mode (not Playback), press and hold the Disp/Back button until the Bluetooth & Function (Fn) Setting Menu appears. Pick an Fn button (whichever one you like, as long as it isn’t a touchscreen gesture) to customize, and set it to AWB-L. Next, open the Wrench Menu subset, click Button/Dial Setting, select AWB-Lock Mode, and set it to AWB On/Off Switch. Now, when you think AWB is producing a good white balance for the situation, simply press the Fn button you chose to enable AWB-L, and the camera will keep that white balance until you press the button again to disable it. Don’t forget to disable AWB-L when you encounter different lighting.

4. Program the same Film Simulation Recipe into several C1-C7 Custom Presets, but (for example) set the white balance to Daylight (for outdoors) on one, maybe Fluorescent 3 (for indoors) on another, and some other white balance (for another light you expect to encounter) on another. Definitely check the results at the very beginning to make sure it all looks good (and adjust if necessary) before photographing the whole event this way. You’ll have to remember to change to the correct C1-C7 preset as the light situation changes.

5. Take your chances with AWB. If you shoot RAW+JPEG, even if you have no intentions of editing the RAW files, you can reprocess the pictures in-camera or with X RAW Studio if, by chance, a crucial exposure has a weird color cast. You can simply adjust the white balance to be closer to the others, or apply a B&W recipe (such as Kodak Tri-X 400) and call it being creative.

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