Best Camera Buying Guide: How To Choose A Camera In 2021 [15 Useful Tips]

Are you planning to buy a new camera? Are you in a mess by seeing so many types of cameras and so many variants?

The camera market is very competitive. That is why it is logical that you will be confused about choosing the best camera. So this Camera Buying Guide will give you insights into How to choose a camera in 2021.

When it comes to buying a camera, the first question that comes to your mind is, which is the best camera for me? And, it is not only you. The same question is there in almost every consumer’s mind. We will try to solve this puzzle for you in this article.

The task of buying the best camera is intimidating and hectic. But, do not worry, our expert guide will certainly help you choose the best camera.

We have an incredible experience in photography over the past few years. We have considered all the technical terms associated with the photography and camera types in this buying guide.

Types of cameras

There are basically five types of cameras as outlined below.

  • DSLR Camera
  • Point and Shoot Camera
  • Mirrorless Camera
  • Action Camera
  • Bridge Camera
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DSLR Camera

The First one is DSLR, the most popular one in the market. It stands for ‘Digital Single Lens Reflex,’ meaning the camera uses the same lens for framing, focusing, and clicking the photographs.

camera buying guide
DSLR Camera

All DSLRs work on the principle that light passes through the lens to a mirror that reflects it through a prism to an optical viewfinder. When you click on the shutter, the mirror lifts itself, and the light gets capture in the sensor, and then the image processor creates the image.

Talking about the highlights, DSLRs are known for their versatility. It offers great battery life, easy to handle, and comes with a wide variety of interchangeable lenses.

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Mirrorless Cameras

Mirrorless cameras are top-rated among amateur photographers. They offer more advantages than what you get in DSLR cameras. They don’t have any mirrors inside, which makes them very compact. The camera can have lenses fixed and interchangeable.

The working principle of a mirrorless camera is almost the same as a DSLR, but the only difference is that it does not have any mirror. So it uses an electronic viewfinder instead of an optical viewfinder.

Since there is no mirror, the camera is small in size and lightweight. If you want to enjoy the quality of a DSLR but want something easy to carry, then a mirrorless camera is the best bet.

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Mirrorless Camera

If you need more than just taking vacation shots, the mirrorless cameras are a great choice. Go with mirrorless cameras whether you are having your first one or you’re upgrading.

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Bridge Camera

Bridge cameras are quite popular among enthusiast photographers. It permeates the gap between the DSLR and compact cameras. 

These cameras do not have interchangeable lenses, and they offer a high magnification zoom lens. 

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Bridge Camera

The zoom range is much larger than what you get in DSLR and mirrorless cameras. However, you might face issues in the image quality when the zoom range is high.

If the compact camera is not enough for you or your pocket does not allow too much investment, then the bridge cameras can be a great option for you.

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Compact cameras

Compact cameras are popular due to their small form factors and lightweight. Many of us have started our photography with a compact camera. The reason is, it is small in size and offers convenience like your camera smartphone. 

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Point and Shoot camera

Except it is small and compact, it does not offer any other benefits against a smartphone camera. Your smartphone is capable of delivering excellent images far better than cheap compact cameras.

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Action Camera

Action cameras are a special type of camera, comes in smaller sizes, and the body is waterproof. Videography is the main focus of action cameras.

camera buying guide
Action Camera

If you are looking for a camera just for photography, I recommend not buying action cameras. The images will turn out to be worse than the images you used to get using your smartphones. 

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Factors To Consider While Buying A Camera: Camera Buying Guide

You might be shopping around for a camera for your personal need or your profession, but still, it is a big investment. Right? So choose your camera wisely after considering all the factors listed below.

Unless we are informed enough about what we are buying, there is a high chance that we can pick the wrong camera. Do you want to regret it later after choosing the wrong camera? I don’t feel so. So let’s get into these factors that you should consider while buying your favorite camera.

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1. Sensor size of the camera

The sensor size is one of the most critical things you should look for while buying a camera. A sensor is a solid-state device that captures the light coming in through the lens to form a digital image.

In photography, sensor size means the physical size of the sensor. Usually, it is prescribed in mm or inches. The bigger the sensor size, the more lights it can capture, and the better will be the image quality. It is the sensor size that determines how much light can be captured.

Please note that based on the sensor size, the camera body and lens size varies. That is why smartphone cameras can only use small-size sensors, although they can use a high-megapixel camera.

Bigger the sensor size, the more light it can capture. More light means more detail, and more detail means better image quality.
Also, the bigger the sensor size, the bigger will be the pixel size. Bigger pixels can absorb more light and produce better image quality.

Types Of Sensor

There are basically four types of sensors available in the market.

  • CCD Sensor
  • CMOS Sensor
  • Foveon X3 Sensor
  • LiveMOS Sensor
CCD Sensor ( Charged Coupled Device)

CCD sensors are used in digital cameras for a long time and are known for their better image quality, better dynamic range, and less noise. However, basic construction and high power consumption have replaced CCD with CMOS in recent years.

One more issue with CCD sensors is the slow response time.

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CCD Sensor
CMOS Sensor

Though CMOS is inferior to CCD sensors, recent developments have made CMOS sensors equivalent to CCD sensors.

CMOS sensors are fast, more energy-efficient, and can add more function in a single system on chip (SOC). CMOS sensors are better suited for high-speed cameras where burst shooting is the key.

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CMOS Sensor
Foveon X3 Sensor

Foveon X3 sensor is a proprietary sensor developed by Foveon Inc ( Now Sigma Corporation) and used exclusively in Sigma compact and DSLR cameras. It uses an array of photosites that consist of three vertically stacked photodiodes. Each of the three stacked photodiodes has a different spectral sensitivity, allowing it to respond differently to different wavelengths.

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Foveon Sensor
LiveMOS Sensor

Live MOS sensors are used in the fourth-third system DSLRs manufactured by Panasonic, Olympus, and Leica since 2006. It offers the image quality of CCD sensors and low power consumption quality of CMOS sensors.. It can also reduce noise in the images.

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LiveMOS Sensor

Different Sensor Sizes

There are seven different sizes of sensors available in the market.

  • Full Frame
  • APS-H
  • APS-C
  • Four Thirds / Micro
  • One Inch
  • 1/1.7 Inch
  • 1/2.3 Inch
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Different Sensor Size
Full Frame Sensor ( 36×24 MM)

The size of this sensor is equal to a negative film size which is 35 mm. That is why it is called a full-frame sensor.

Since the size is full, there will be no cropping in the image processing. This type of sensor is only found in bigger professional high-end cameras, and those are expensive too.

APS-H (28.1 x 18.7 MM)

This sensor size was typically found in Canon 1D series cameras. Although this sensor size can not match the image quality of a full-size frame, it is still good enough for day-to-day photography.

The crop factor in this sensor size is 1.3. These sensors are often found in high-end DSLRs

APS-C (23.6 x 15.8 MM)

Most of the DSLRs come with this sensor size. The crop factor varies from 1.5 to 1.7. With this camera, you can get low to average quality images up to 32 MP

Four Thirds / Micro ( 17.3 x 13 MM)

Since the size of this sensor is almost four third of a full-size sensor, that is why it is called a fourth-third sensor or microsensor.

The crop factor is 2 in the microsensor. Often found in low-end DSLRs and compact cameras.

Apart from these four sizes, other small-size sensors are used in smartphones or other ultra-compact cameras. But again, keep in mind that if the sensor size is small, it can not capture more light and result in poor quality images.

Full frame sensors are known for giving good results in terms of image quality. They are even good in low lighting conditions.

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2. Resolution

Like how the sensor size is important, the resolution of a camera is also an important factor. Resolution is defined by megapixels. The more pixels, the crisper the image quality will be. But there is a hack.

If you use a small sensor and a high megapixel camera, it can not take good photos as the pixel size will be too small. However, a bigger sensor with fewer megapixels can take better pictures as the pixel size will be high.

Bigger pixels can capture more light and gives better images. So it is not the number of pixels but the pixel size which is important for good photography.

You don’t need a camera with more megapixels when you can get good results by simply reducing the print resolution. 10-12 megapixels are more than enough for any amateur photographer.

Do you know why a DSLR having 12-megapixel resolution takes better pictures than a smartphone camera with 30 megapixels? It is because the sensor size is big in DSLR, and that is making the difference.
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3. Lens

The lens is one of the essential components of a camera. A lens is something through which you see the images on the viewfinder and through which the light ray will be captured into the sensor.

Here are the types of lens available in cameras.

  • Prime Lens
  • Zoom lens
  • Wide Angle Lens
  • Standard Lens
  • Special Lens
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Different Lens Size

Prime Lens

Prime lenses are ubiquitous lenses. They come with a fixed focal length that makes them faster and sharper.

However, the fixed focal length is an issue.

Zoom Lens

Unlike prime lenses, zoom lenses are more flexible because of their varied focal length. But they are not as fast and sharp as a prime lens. Here are the different types of zoom lenses.

  • Macro Lenses 
  • Telephoto Lenses

Wide Angle Lens

In photography and cinematography, a wide-angle lens refers to a lens whose focal length is substantially smaller than the focal length of a normal lens for a given film plane.

This type of lens allows more of the scene to be included in the photograph, which is useful in architectural, interior and landscape photography where the photographer may not be able to move farther from the scene to photograph it

Standard Lens

Standard lenses produce images that are similar to what we see through our eyes. These are also called regular lenses.

Standard lenses are fast and have an angle of view between 50-55 degrees. The focal lies in between the focal length of a zoom lens and a wide-angle lens.

Specialty Lens

Here are some of the special lenses used in cameras.

  • Fisheye lens
  • Tilt-shift lens
  • Infrared lens
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4. Exposure

Camera exposure is one of the very critical features of a camera. It determines whether the photo will be too dark or it will be washed out. Basically, exposure is the amount of light that is allowed to capture by the sensor.

If there is more light, it will be called over-exposed, and the image will be washed out. If there is low light, then the image will be too dark. So you need to adjust different settings to allow the optimum level of lights to the sensor.

Exposure can be controlled by controlling the following three settings, which is called the exposure triangle.

  • Aperture
  • Shutter Speed
  • Sensitivity ( ISO)
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Exposure Triangle

Aperture

This is the opening through which light comes into the sensor. The bigger the opening, the more light will come in, and the better will be the image quality. The aperture is expressed in F stops.

The more the value of F stops, the smaller the opening will be, and less light will get into the sensor. So always choose a low F stop value ( Means high aperture ) camera for brighter photography.

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Aperture

Aperture also controls the focal length of the lenses, or you can say that how wide the lens is opening. If you want to concentrate on a subject and blurred out the remaining area, you should use a low F stop value lens.

But if you want to capture the whole view showing in the viewfinder without focusing on a particular subject, use a lens with a higher F stop value.

Aperture not only controls the amount of light that gets captured in the sensor, but it also controls the depth of field. A higher aperture ( Lower F stop value) will create a shallow depth of field, whereas a lower aperture ( Higher F stop value ) will create a wider depth of field.

Shutter Speed

Shutter speed means how fast the camera will take pictures when you click on the shutter. If you plan to take a picture of a fast-moving object, you should use fast shutter speed so that the image does not show blurry. However, for a static object, you can use low shutter speed.

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Shutter Speed

One of the issues with high shutter speed is that since the camera lens will be open for a brief period, there will be less light captured by the sensor. That is why photos taken with high shutter speed are a bit dark.

On the other hand, low shutter speed allows the lens to open for a more extended period. More light can get into the sensor, and the brighter the image will be.

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Shutter Speed Vs Aperture

Sensitivity ( ISO)

The sensitivity of a camera ( ISO) defines how sensitive the camera is to the incoming light. If the ISO value is low, the camera sensor will be less sensitive to the incoming light, and the picture will be dark.

If the ISO value is high, the sensor will be more sensitive to light and create a brighter picture. That is the reason if you want to take a photo in a dark environment, use a higher ISO number. But if you are taking a picture under direct sunlight, then use a low ISO number.

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ISO Sensitivity

Do you know that a lower ISO number creates less noise in the picture, whereas a higher ISO number shows more noise in the picture? So it is a bit of a trade-off whether you want a more bright picture or a more detailed picture.

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5. High Dynamic Range ( HDR)

To explain what HDR is, let’s take an example. Let’s say, You went to a park and want to take a great picture of the greenery with the correct exposure. Proper exposure means right shutter speed, good ISO, and correct aperture. Can you make everything right? No human can do everything perfectly. That is where high dynamic range comes into the picture.

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HDR technology

HDR takes multiple pictures with different exposure of the same shot. After that, the image processor algorithm will take the best bits and pieces of all the images and give you the best single image. That is why when you take a picture in HDR mode. It takes some time to get the shot, as, in the background, the camera is processing the best image.

Having HDR in a camera is a must-have feature. Even smartphone cameras nowadays comes with HDR.

You are reading: Camera Buying Guide

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6. View Finder

When we talk about photography, the viewfinder is an integral part of your camera used for composing and reviewing your images. What you see through the viewfinder is what gets captured in the picture.

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Viewfinder

There are two types of viewfinder found in cameras.

  • Optical viewfinder
  • Electronic viewfinder

The optical viewfinder uses a mirror to reflect the light on the viewfinder. It is used in almost all cameras, including DSLR cameras. Due to the optical viewfinder, the DSLR camera is a bit heavy.

An electronic viewfinder or digital viewfinder is found in mirrorless cameras. There is no mirror, so the light is directly projected onto the viewfinder. The camera with an electronic viewfinder is lighter in weight.

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7. Image Stabilization

We can not keep our hands steady while taking pictures. Right? If your hands are not steady, images will be blurry for sure.

That is why the image stabilization feature is introduced in cameras. What it does is compensate for your hand movement or vibration when you take a picture either electronically or mechanically.

There are three types of image stabilization available.

  • Optical Image Stabilization (OIS)
  • In-Body Image Stabilization ( Sensor-Shift/ IBIS)
  • Digital Image Stabilization (EIS)
Optical Image Stabilization

Optical image stabilization stabilizes the captured images by varying the optical path of the sensor.

It uses a lens element that moves orthogonally against the optical axis of the lens using electromagnets. The vibration of motion is detected using two gyroscopic sensors, one for horizontal movement and the other for vertical movement.

The optical image stabilization happens only in the lens. It is prevalent in low-end cameras and smartphone cameras.

In Body Image Stabilization ( IBIS)

The in-body image stabilization is different from optical image stabilization in the sense that in IBIS, the sensor itself moves to compensate for the shake. That is why it is often called a sensor shift as the sensor is shifting to compensate for the shake.

IBIS is a far better technology compared to optical image stabilization. Do you know iPhone 12 cameras comes with sensor shift technologies?

Digital Image Stabilization

Digital image stabilization is often called electronic image stabilization. This technique shifts the electronic image from frame to frame of video, enough to counteract the motion. It uses pixels outside the border of the visible frame to provide a buffer for the motion.

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8. Image Processor Engine

Every camera has an image processing unit that starts working after you capture the image. Whether you have big sensors or small sensors, all are in vain if the image processing is not good.

An image processing engine is like a processor of computer. Whenever it gets the input from the sensor, it starts working at the backend and then gives you the output.

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9. Global Positioning System

GPS is a handy feature in cameras. It adds a tag on images showing the location where the image was taken. If you are on a vacation, the GPS feature comes in handy to know the location

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10. Burst Mode

Burst mode takes a back-to-back picture of a moving object in a short time. This feature is essential when you want to take a stable picture of a moving object. The burst mode in a camera is defined as the camera’s capability to take the number of images per second.

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11. Connectivity

Most cameras nowadays comes with Wi-Fi and bluetooth to connect to the internet and share files. Few cameras also comes with NFC that allows you to share files without internet.

Personally I prefer a camera with all three connectivity features.

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12. Panoramic Mode

Panorama mode is great for those who want to take a wide view of a particular scene. Panoramic mode is a unique feature that you will get in most cameras. It allows you to physically tilt your camera left and right to take panoramic shots. Usually, cameras are capable of capturing panoramic images up to 180 to 360 degrees.

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Panoramic Mode
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13. Display

All digital cameras have a display where you can see the captured images or videos, adjust the menu and camera setting, transfer files, and many other important tasks. It is the graphical interface through which you will interact with the camera.

For many years, LCD screens are used in cameras. Those screens are vibrant and show exact color accuracy. Nowadays, camera displays come with touch enable panels like smartphone displays that adds more convenience to you.

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Camera Display

Rotating displays are also gaining popularity nowadays as you can see yourself while shooting. This is great for taking selfies or shooting videos for youtube.

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14. Weather Sealing

Buying a professional camera is a huge investment. When you take the camera outdoor, there are high chances of being exposed to dust, moisture, water, etc. So it would be best if you buy a camera that does not allow dust, moisture, or water to enter into the camera lens or sensor.

There are some cameras in the market that comes with automatic sensor cleaning technology, what it does basically use ultrasonic vibrations to evade all the dust from the camera sensors.

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15. Budget

Budget is also a prime criteria when you buy a camera. But before you set a budget, you need to figure out what kind of photographer you are.

Typically there are three level of photographers.

  • Entry Level
  • Enthusiast
  • Expert

Entry Level

Entry-level cameras are like compact cameras or low-end DSLR cameras. Usually, you will get a microsensor or an APS-C sensor in entry-level cameras that cost below Rs 50000 and good for basic photography. But trust me, your smartphone camera is as good as an entry-level camera.

Enthusiast

You may get an APS-H grade sensor in the enthusiast category cameras. These cameras are good for basic to intermediate-level photography and costs in the range of Rs 50000 to Rs 100000. Most of the personal DSLRs sold in India are enthusiast cameras.

Expert

In an Expert level camera, you can expect a full-frame sensor. These are high-end cameras used for professional photography. Usually costs above Rs 100000. Unless you are a professional photographer, you don’t need to buy an expert level camera

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Best Camera Brands In India: Camera Buying Guide

There are tons of brands that manufacture cameras for beginner, amateur, and professional photographers. Almost all of them give the same kind of image quality.

So, if you are a photographer, you will get confused about which camera brand is right for you. Here are a couple of reputed camera brands.

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Canon 

If you are a photographer, you can’t ignore Canon cameras. It is a Japanese company, producing excellent cameras for decades. 

Excellent image quality is one of the highlights of Canon cameras. Most professional photographers either use a canon or Nikon camera.

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Nikon 

Nikon is another popular brand in the photography universe, known for its exquisite features. Nikon’s DSLR camera is quite appealing and also offers a wide variety of DSLR lenses that are affordable for beginners. 

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Sony 

Sony mirrorless cameras are top-rated. Those are known for excellent photography and lightweight. However, Sony has very little presence in the DSLR camera. Sony produces point-and-shoot cameras too, but they are too bad for even basic photography.

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Fujifilm

When it comes to mirrorless cameras, Fujifilm is perhaps the most famous camera brand in the world of photography. It’s a Japanese-based company known for delivering high-quality cameras and various photography equipment.

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Essential Camera Accessories: Camera Buying Guide

Here are the essential camera accessories that you should look for while buying a camera.

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Memory Cards

You may need to have a memory card so that you can store your images. Do look for a memory card that you think fits your needs.

I would recommend you to go with Sandisk or Lexar. They are the most reliable ones in the market and will be worth your money.

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Spare Batteries

It is very frustrating when you are about to take an epic shot, and suddenly the battery of your camera faints. 

Therefore, you must carry a fully-charged spare battery so that you can shoot freely.

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Memory Card Reader

Today, almost all the cameras have a USB cable to transfer the images/ photos from your camera to your smartphones and tablets. But, this is quite a clunky process. 

That’s why we suggest you have a memory card reader, it will make your job easy.

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Conclusion: Best Camera Buying Guide

I hope, I could able to give you enough information about cameras through this camera buying guide. I hope this will help you to make an informed purchase decision.

Whether you are a beginner photographer or a professional, If you have a firm dedication toward photography, you will be able to click good images even with a compact or mirrorless camera.

Any question? Please don’t hesitate to ask questions through the comment box and I will be happy to respond.

You may also like to read:

  1. Laptop Buying Guide
  2. Washing machine buying guide
  3. Air Conditioner buying guide

Rajib is the Co-Founder and the Lead Product Analyst of RiansTech. A BTech in Mechanical Engineering and a veteran in the Home Appliance industry with over 17 years of experience in designing appliances for industry leaders like GE and Whirlpool. He also runs a successful niche blog (RiansClub) on Mechanical Engineering

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