Reincarnation is fascinating to me. The idea that something lives multiple lives, starting anew every time out. Camera equipment is no different, and when I look at the cameras and lenses on my shelf, they all tell their own stories.
One of my favorite lenses ever is the Olympus M.Zuiko 45mm f/1.8 – a pocket-sized portrait prime that's barely bigger than a satsuma, but has a full frame equivalent focal length of 90mm. And it's a lens that has, so far, lived three distinct lives.
It started off in the camera bag of my photography mentor and former boss – a fashion and celebrity shooter who for years was the principal photographer for Olympus. It was part of his working kit during the time of the original E-M5 and E-M1, for which my boss did testing and shot ad campaigns for the launches.
Neither of us can be sure exactly what other shoots were conducted on this lens. However, given that his clientele included everyone from pop stars and TV presenters to sports figures and two Prime Ministers, I'm pretty sure it snapped at least one famous face.
When I started working for him, and training under him, it was the first lens I wanted. But having just shelled out on a new camera (the Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark II, which I had been secretly learning on while we were testing it before launch) I didn't have money for a new lens. So I decided to buy it second-hand, having discovered the likes of MPB.com – but before I placed my order, my boss offered to sell me his.
And so ended this little lens' first life, of taking celebrity portraits and shooting big ad campaigns. Thus begun its second life, in the hands of a hapless newbie with his first mirrorless camera.
I used this little portrait lens for everything, sometimes everything except portraits. But I learned a lot by pushing it to its limits – and I learned just as much by finding out how not to use it.
It was my go-to lens as I built my fledgling fashion and portraiture portfolio. And it became my workhorse as I started accepting professional work and commissions, (even though I'd also bought a few more second-hand lenses by then). It scored me my first published photos, a few double-page spreads in big photography magazines, and my first image on a front cover (albeit very small).
Years later, I bought my then-partner a camera for her birthday. She liked my Olympus kit, so it made sense to get her an Oly body so we could use the same glass and batteries.
As a budding portrait photographer herself, one of the first lenses she wanted was the 45mm – so I gave her mine, and bought myself another second-hand one to replace it.
And so, the lens had gone somewhat full circle. From a working tool used by a professional photographer, to the first lens used by a newbie, who started using it for professional work before passing it onto another newbie – who used it to get her own first published photos.
It's for this reason that buying used is my favorite way to get camera kit these days. Whether I'm buying from second-hand kit from my local camera shop, from MPB, or from one of my friends, I love wondering what lives it has lived before it reached my hands. And this particular lens tells one of my favorite stories.
You might be interested in reading about the best Olympus lenses (OM System) – and three of my personal faves, the Olympus M.Zuiko 17mm f/1.8 for street photography, the Olympus M.Zuiko 25mm f/1.8 for all-purpose shooting, and the Olympus M.Zuiko 75mm f/1.8 for portraiture.