>The manual states not to take movie >pictures with direct sun in the frame or it will damage the >sensor. What about snapshots. Can you do it?
Lots of rumors out there, but too few facts.
Of course you can make sun photos. That's where all those great sunset and sunrise photos come from. The first trick is to protect your eyes by not staring through the viewfinder directly at unflitered sunlight. The second trick is to use the the correct lens filter (e.g., a circular polarizer or neutral density) as needed, along with the appropriate exposure settings.
The other point that should be made is really a question. What sort of image capture or video capture does anyone expect to get with the glare of the sun in one part of the frame? If the main subject being shot is people or architecture or landscape (anything but the sun itself) the exposure is going to be terrible (or at least really, really difficult) with the sun in the frame unless the photographer is using a grad filter or shooting video with a day-for-night setup. Even then, why position the camera with the sun in the frame?
Using a grad filter in a video shoot in which the camera is panned or zoomed will usually produce terrible results too.
It's possible, during long, unfiltered video exposures directly into the sun to heat up the sensor filter and the underlying sensor itself to the point of damage. A shot lasting ten seconds is not going to do any harm. A shot lasting longer than ten seconds with the sun in the frame is liable to be just irritating and useless and distracting.
It is not advised for the very good reason that a fast lens can concentrate enough energy to burn the Beyer filter requiring replacement of the entire sensor. As a kid you probably used a magnifying glass to start wood on fire, the light transmission efficiency of camera optical glass is a lot higher than the kid's magnifier so a lot of light can be gathered by a fast lens with a low T-Stop value. The spread of the focused rays can be narrow enough to burn the top layers of the sensor array(micro-filters, AA filter and sensor itself, if defocused sufficiently. To take images of the sun, either strong attenuating filters are used or taking photos of a screen where the image is projected by lenses.
Sunsets are very low sun energy scenes, there is a lot of attenuation of light as it passes through the thick atmosphere parallel to the horizon, taking an image of the highly attenuated light is not a problem
Sensors are pretty tough but there is a lot between the entry layer to the sensor itself that makes up the sensor array that are not as resistant to the very high temperatures that can be generated by focused mid day sun light. Even just burning the normally transparent adhesive binding the layers together can be discovered by heat requiring replacement of the sensor.
My experience is this. I have used the sun to create flares and areas of brightness in my landscape and model shots and I have not experienced any issue with my sensor other than the usual cleaning. I am sure Nikon puts the verbiage in there for warranty reasons and people that do point it directly at the sun (I have never pointed mine directly at the sun).