Organic carbocyanine dye coatings have been analyzed by time-of-flight static secondary ion mass spectrometry (TOF-S-SIMS) using three types of primary ions: Ga+ operating at 25 keV, and Xe+ and SF5+ both operating at 9 keV. Secondary ion yields obtained with these three primary ions have been compared for coatings with different layer thickness, varying from (sub)-monolayer to multilayers, on different substrates (Si, Ag and AgBr cubic microcrystals). For (sub)-monolayers deposited on Ag, Xe+ and SF5+ primary ions generate similar precursor ion intensities, but with Ga+ slightly lower precursor ion intensities were obtained. Thick coatings on Ag as well as mono- and multilayers on Si produce the highest precursor and fragment ion intensities with the polyatomic primary ion. The yield difference between SF5+ and Xe+ can reach a factor of 6. In comparison with Ga+, yield enhancements by up to a factor of 180 are observed with SF5+. For the mass spectrometric analysis of dye layers on AgBr microcrystals, SF5+ again proves to be the primary ion of choice. Copyright © 2004 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.