It is adding a great extra dimension to the hobby with an old camera but with today’s modern digital cameras that are running on low costs and with no need to develop the film. If you are doing a lot of photography then this will actually add up quite rapidly and you will be able to either save a lot of dollars or just be able to take a lot more pictures.
The most obvious way to control a digital camera is to use a servo with a camera pressing on the shutter button. You might have seen some really good photos taken with a Canon Digital Ixus camera using this exact method as this is a method that is commonly used around the world.
However this might not appeal to you as it interferes with the normal use of the camera. In this age of fly by wire it seems a bit agricultural to do it this way. But every man does it his own way and I am not to tell you how to take your pictures.
Now you might think: Is there no way to do this in an automatically and electronically way? To do that you would be able to completely remove the need for a servo, and it would offer you a great deal of simplicity and a superior flexibility. This could, as an example, be done with an interval timer function. At the time of writing this I couldn’t seem to find any commercial interfaces that would allow you to do this and you would therefore have to build you own.
A suggest for the solution is that you should choose would be to base it on a commercially available Stamp micro-controller. A brief description of what I mean can be explained by this:
The algebra is a decent size (3 meter), good handling no-nonsense airplane, and a perfect choice as a camera platform. A Multiplex mc3030 transmitter would be a great choice with controlling ailerons, spoiler, rudder, elevator and then of course the camera.
When you do the flight tests, a cardboard dummy can be used in the place of the camera, so you can determine the effect of a large bluff object sticking above the wing. I suggest that you do at least three test flights with the dummy mounted in different positions before the actual flight.
A camera falling to earth from a plane is not a pretty sight so please make sure to fasten it the best you can when you are doing your digital aerial maps photography.