Switching from a DSLR to a Mirrorless Camera


I recently upgraded most of my camera gear from Canon DSLR’s like the Canon 5D Mark III & Canon 7D Mark II to the Sony a7 III and Panasonic Lumix G9 Mirrorless cameras and have notice a lot of differences between the two systems. Upgrading all my camera equipment has meant not only getting used to a different camera set-up and buying new lenses and lighting gear, it’s also meant the change from a DSLR to a mirrorless camera, and in the case of the Panasonic Lumix G9, a micro four thirds system.

The Julie Whelan Photography Camera Line Up: the Canon 5D Mark III, Panasonic Lumix G9, and Sony a7 III.
The Canon 5D Mark III, Panasonic Lumix G9, and Sony a7 III

DSLR Cameras vs. Mirrorless Cameras

The biggest difference I’ve noticed so far between a DSLR camera and a mirrorless system is the size of the gear. With the compact mirrorless systems, I can now fit all my equipment including all cameras, lenses, lighting equipment and accessories into my camera bag at once.

Julie Whelan Photography Photo & Video Gear 2018: Sony a7 III; Sony 85mm f1.8; Sigma 35mm f1.4; Panasonic Lumix G9; Panasonic Lumix 12-35mm f2.8; Godox TT350; Godox AD200.

The next big difference to me in the new mirrorless system is the digital viewfinder as opposed to the optical viewfinders in my Canon DSLR’s. When I look through the electronic viewfinder, I do find it more like looking at a computer monitor or my smartphone.

Not to go all ‘hipstery’ on you, but there’s just something satisfying about looking through the viewfinder and seeing what the lens sees. I started my career in the film days where a photographer had to know in advance how to set the f-stop, shutter speed, and ISO to achieve the desired effect. Being able to see how adjusting the exposure affects the image in real time is jarring to me. It’s also time-consuming and annoying when I’m trying to shoot a long exposure due to the lag. However, it is convenient and better for work flow to be able to use the histogram, focus peaking, and zebras in real time, which is also fantastic for video.

Zoom Lenses vs. Prime Lenses

I’ve not only changed from DSLR’s to mirrorless systems, I’ve also started using prime lenses. I still use the Panasonic Lumix 12-35mm f/2.8, but I also wanted the ability to shoot with faster lenses with larger apertures and I wanted to see what all this ‘bokeh’ fuss was about.

The Canon EF 70-200mm f2.8 IS II Telephoto Zoom Lens USM

Up until this year, I had never owned a prime lens and to be honest, I was a little apprehensive to make the switch. I was so accustomed to staying in the same place from shot to shot, I felt that shooting with a prime lens would not allow me to frame certain shots the way I wanted and therefore change the way I navigated through a photo shoot. And I was right; navigating through a shoot is different now and the change was worth it.

The Sony Fe 85mm f1.8 Lens for the Sony Mirrorless Cameras.
The Sony Fe 85mm f/1.8.

Now that my main lenses have a fixed focal length, I’ve been experimenting more with my images and really thinking through each shot, instead of zooming and shooting, zooming and shooting. At the end of a shoot, I come out with higher quality and more well thought out images, and less of the same images at different focal lengths.

In all my years of shooting with only zoom lenses, the largest aperture available was f/2.8. Now I have access to f/1.4 and with two stops more light, it’s changed the quality of my photography because I don’t have to push my ISO so high and I get a shallow depth of field.

The Panasonic Lumix G9 Mirrorless Camera on a Park Bench on a Sunny Day.

I do miss the image stabilization and versatility in my zoom lenses, but I’m enjoying the challenge of learning a different way of shooting with my prime lenses. As mentioned above, I have the Panasonic Lumix 12-35mm f/2.8 if I’m headed out for a fun day trip and really need a zoom fix!

What’s in My Camera Bag

For a more detailed look into every piece of gear I take with me on a photo or video shoot, read What’s In My Camera Bag.

My Kit

If you would like to access my equipment list whenever you want quickly and conveniently, check out and follow My Kits here:

My Photo Kit

My Video Kit


About Julie Whelan

Julie Whelan, professional photographer of over fifteen years, has had the opportunity to shoot all over the globe--from capturing portraits in Vanuatu to shooting off rooftops in Maui to photographing products in Calgary. She now finds herself in Ontario photographing outdoor adventures and the active lifestyles of athletic individuals and athletes in competition & training. Julie has also worked with professional athletes such as Don Cherry, Darryl Sittler, and Roberto Alomar. When not behind the lens, Julie likes to unwind with a good book or spending time in the garden.

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