Review — Scaling Vision Transformers

2-Million-Parameter ViT-G Obtained by Model Scaling, Outperforms ViT, SimCLRv2, BYOL, DINO

Sik-Ho Tsang
6 min readSep 8, 2022

Scaling Vision Transformers
, by Google Research, Brain Team, Zürich
2022 CVPR, Over 100 Citations (Sik-Ho Tsang @ Medium)
Image Classification, Vision Transformer, ViT, Model Scaling, Data Scaling

  • Scaling for ViT is not addressed before. In this paper, ViT models and data, are both scaled up and down, where
  • The architecture and training of ViT are refined for reducing memory consumption and increasing accuracy.
  • Finally, a ViT model with two billion parameters, ViT-G, is evaluated and compared with other state-of-the-art approaches.


  1. Improvements to the ViT model and Training
  2. ViT Variants Analysis
  3. ViT-G Results

1. Improvements to the ViT model and Training

Model architecture details
  • Different ViT models are trained as above.
  • Among them, ViT-G/14 is the largest one, which contains nearly two billion parameters.

1.1. Decoupled weight decay for the “head”

Left and middle: The dependence of 5-shot ImageNet accuracy and upstream performance depends on the weight decay strength. Right: Few-shot performance on ImageNet for different types of head.
  • Weight decay has a drastic effect on model adaptation in the low-data regime.
  • One can benefit from decoupling weight decay strength for the final linear layer (“head”), and for the remaining weights (“body”) in the model.
  • Left and Middle: A collection ViT-B/32 models on JFT-300M is evaluated, each cell corresponds to the performance of different head/body weight decay values.

High weight decay in the head decreases performance on the pre-training (upstream) task (not shown), despite improving transfer performance.

1.2. Saving Memory by Removing [class] Token

  • ViT models have an extra [class] token, which is used to produce the final representation, bringing the total number of tokens to 257 (256 visual tokens + 1 class token).
  • Global average pooling (GAP) and multihead attention pooling (MAP) [24] are tried to aggregate representation from all patch tokens, as an alternative of extra class token.
  • To further simplify the head design, the final non-linear projection before the final prediction layer is also removed.
  • Right: All heads perform similarly, while GAP and MAP are much more memory efficient, and the non-linear projection can be safely removed. Finally, MAP is adopted.

1.3. Scaling Up Data

The effect of switching from JFT-300M to JFT-3B, without any further scaling
  • The proprietary JFT-3B dataset, a larger version of the JFT-300M, is used, which has 3B images.

Both small and large models benefit from scaling up data, by an approximately constant factor, both for linear few-shot evaluation (left) and transfer using the full dataset (right).

1.4. Others

Various “infinite” learning-rate schedules, along with the finite linear one for reference
  • The proposed largest model, ViT-G, has roughly two billion parameters, which occupies 8 GiB of device memory.
  • Memory-efficient optimizers are used.
  • Learning-rate schedules that, with warmup phase in the beginning, and a cooldown phase at the end of training, is introduced.
  • The above figure the validation score (higher is better) for each of these options and their cooldowns, together with two linear schedules for reference.
  • (Please feel free to read the paper directly.)

2. ViT Variants Analysis

2.1. Scaling Up Compute, Model and Data Together

Left/Center: Representation quality, measured as ImageNet finetune and linear 10-shot error rate as a function of total training compute Top right: Representation quality when bottlenecked by model size. Bottom Right: Representation quality by datasets size
  • Several ViT models are trained on both public ImageNet-21k dataset and privately gathered images, up to three billion weakly-labelled images.
  • The architecture size, number of training images, and training duration are varied. All models are trained on TPUv3, thus total compute is measured in TPUv3 core-days.

Left and Center: the lower right point shows the model with the largest size, dataset size and compute achieving the lowest error rate.

  • However, it appears that at the largest size the models starts to saturate, and fall behind the power law frontier.
  • i.e. the straight line in log-log plot.

Top-Right: The representation quality can be bottlenecked by model size.

  • The large models benefit from additional data, even beyond 1B images.

Bottom-Right: The largest models even obtain a performance improvement the training set size grows from 1B to 3B images.

  • In terms of the law, this saturation corresponds to an additive constant c to the error rate:
  • There is also a x-axis shift, d:
  • This constant indicates that the zero-compute model will still obtain non-zero accuracy.

2.2. Big Models are More Sample Efficient

Error rate on ImageNet, with respect to images seen during pre-training
  • Big models are more sample efficient, which is consistent across diverse setups: Few-shot transfer on the frozen representations, fine-tune the network on ImageNet, and evaluate the fine-tuned models on the v2 test set.

The above results suggested that with sufficient data, training a larger model for fewer steps is preferable.

2.3. Do Scaling Laws Still Apply on Fewer Images?

Results on the ImageNet-21k dataset Left: Representation quality, measured as ImageNet linear 10-shot error rate by TPU days, Right: Representation quality by model sizes and dataset sizes.
  • The study is extended to much fewer images, ranging from one million to 13 millions. (To me, it is still many images, lol)
  • Left: The double-saturation power law still applies.
  • Right: Similar behaviors are observed that the model performance are bottlenecked by the dataset size.

When scaling up compute, model and data together, one gets the best representation quality.

3. ViT-G Results

3.1. Few-Shot Learning

Few-shot transfer results (ViT-G model reaches 84.86% top-1 accuracy on ImageNet with 10-shot linear evaluation), Outperforms ViT-H, SimCLRv2, BYOL, and DINO
  • For the few-shot learning, ViT-G/14 outperforms the previous best ViT-H/14 model by a large margin (more than 5%), attaining 84.86% accuracy with 10 examples per class. Ten images per class is less than 1% of ImageNet data (13 examples per class).
  • ViT-G/14 also outperforms SimCLRv2 and BYOL, using 1% of ImageNet data, and DINO using 20 examples per class. However, that these approaches are quite different: ViT-G/14 uses large source of weakly-supervised data, and is pre-trained only once and transferred to different tasks.

3.2. Other SOTA Comparisons

The results for ViT-G/14, compared to the previous state-of-the-art models
  • ViT-G/14 achieves 90.45% top-1 accuracy on ImageNet, setting the new state-of-the art.
  • Other datasets are also evaluated. Only a bit worse result is obtained on ObjectNet dataset.

ViT-G studies the data scaling and model scaling in a very comprehensive way, which consumes a lot of TPU days.


[2022 CVPR] [ViT-G]
Scaling Vision Transformers

1.1. Image Classification

1989 … 2022 [ConvNeXt] [PVTv2] [ViT-G]

My Other Previous Paper Readings



Sik-Ho Tsang

PhD, Researcher. I share what I learn. :) Linktree: for Twitter, LinkedIn, etc.