Can anyone please explain to me, why most recent compact-cameras (even by professional manufacturers like Nikon or Canon) don't have options for manual shutter/aperture-control? All they have are various night-shot-modes which are often pretty useless since they won't let you change ISO- or self-shutter-settings. In my opinion a simple M-Mode which lets you set shutter/aperture/iso/flash manually can't be to hard to implement or take much memory on the firmware.

So considering one was able to modify the firmware - could the sensor take any serious damage by overexposure?

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    Please ask two questions separately (why most recent compact cameras don't have manual controls? — but some do have; could the sensor take damage by overexposure? — see this question photo.stackexchange.com/q/4016/1558) – sastanin Nov 4 '11 at 11:34
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    I think the two questions are meant to be related — the damage question is just put forth as a hypothesis for why manufacturers might restrict options. – Please Read My Profile Nov 4 '11 at 11:40

I seriously doubt there are any technical reasons. High-end compact cameras use similar technology and do allow manual control.

Any feature that is added to a product will make it harder to understand. If the target market for the product does not need the feature, it will not be added. For compacts, target market is the people who just want to snap a photo now and then without fussing too much about it. Photography is not a priority of interest for them, which is why the camera must take little money (be cheap), room (be small) and time (only crucial simple options, auto-everything means less things to learn).

Another reason is that people who want manual controls are targets for higher end equipment (e.g. prosumer compacts), giving them manual control in lower end equipment might hurt sales in the premium end.

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why? Simple:
The intended audience would rarely if ever use the functionality. Including it would make the cameras more fragile, larger, and more expensive, all bad things (certainly in that market segment where consumers want things that are small, expensive, yet reliable).
Thus those options are stripped, and the high end compact that used to exist as a bridge towards the expensive DSLRs has been replaced with the entry level DSLR with its kitlens.

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