Most of the known archaeal-type microbial rhodopsins are retinal-binding ion transporters, such as bacteriorhodopsin (BR) and proteorhodopsin (PR). Their identification is the result of extensive studies of their photochemical and biophysical properties. The cells containing these pigments, however, use other microbial rhodopsins as photosensors to monitor environmental light signals. From the early studies of sensory rhodopsin I (HsSRI) in Halobacterium salinarum and sensory rhodopsin II (NpSRII) in Natronomonas pharaonis, we now know that several microbial sensory rhodopsins in the other major domain of life relay information on light intensity and quality to the cell. Three of the most studied photosensory transduction mechanisms of these microbial rhodopsins are dealt with in this review. We discuss recent progress in the understanding of genomic organization, photochemical properties and photosignaling mechanisms with respect to biological function.