A major problem of in-situ surface characterization by using angle resolved light scattering (ARS) is the contradiction of speed and accurate detection of the scatter signal. During the last years several fast and compact ARS sensors have been developed, namely a fiber optic stray light sensor (FOSSIL) with 516 fibers in 3 azimuths, an integrated optics stray light sensor with 120 waveguides in one azimuth and a planar silicon scatter sensor (PSS) with 8013 detector elements. This paper deals with the evaluation of these sensors and their employment to characterize smooth and rough surfaces. After introducing the sensor setups the theoretical performance of the various sensors is compared. This is done by modeling the properties of the radiation detectors and the arrangements of the sampling points. The real performance is obtained by applying the sensors to surfaces with a known BRDF and comparing the measurements with the expected scatter distributions, i.e. from Lambertian reflection standards and preliminary scatter standards of NIST. Furthermore a set of smooth surfaces (polished silicon and steel) was scanned by an atomic force microscope (AFM) and the computed surface statistics is compared to the values obtained from scatter measurements. Finally, the sensors ability to characterize rough surfaces is shown by using pattern recognition methods.© (1998) COPYRIGHT SPIE--The International Society for Optical Engineering. Downloading of the abstract is permitted for personal use only.