A light beam, e.g. from a laser, is transmitted onto the surface of a cold-rolled product such as steel strip. The light beam has a wavelength at least equal to the maximum roughness of the product surface. The reflected light energy is measured, preferably in the specular direction with respect to the incident beam; the surface roughness is deduced from that measurement. The light beam may be interrupted to provide two beams alternately incident on the same spot at different angles.