Doses of erythemally weighted irradiances derived from polysulphone (PS) and electronic ultraviolet (EUV) dosimeters have been compared with measurements obtained using a reference spectroradiometer. PS dosimeters showed mean absolute deviations of 26% with a maximum deviation of 44%, the calibrated EUV dosimeters showed mean absolute deviations of 15% (maximum 33%) around noon during several test days in the northern hemisphere autumn. In the case of EUV dosimeters, measurements with various cut-off filters showed that part of the deviation from the CIE erythema action spectrum was due to a small, but significant sensitivity to visible radiation that varies between devices and which may be avoided by careful preselection. Usually the method of calibrating UV sensors by direct comparison to a reference instrument leads to reliable results. However, in some circumstances the quality of measurements made with simple sensors may be over-estimated. In the extreme case, a simple pyranometer can be used as a UV instrument, providing acceptable results for cloudless skies, but very poor results under cloudy conditions. It is concluded that while UV dosimeters are useful for their design purpose, namely to estimate personal UV exposures, they should not be regarded as an inexpensive replacement for meteorological grade instruments.