Abstract InGaN layers were grown by molecular beam epitaxy (MBE) either directly on (0 0 0 1) sapphire substrates or on GaN-template layers deposited by metal-organic vapor-phase epitaxy (MOVPE). We combined spectroscopic ellipsometry (SE), Raman spectroscopy (RS), photoluminescence (PL) and atomic force microscopy (AFM) measurements to investigate optical properties, microstructure, vibrational and mechanical properties of the InGaN/GaN/sapphire layers. The analysis of SE data was done using a parametric dielectric function model, established by in situ and ex situ measurements. A dielectric function database, optical band gap, the microstructure and the alloy composition of the layers were derived. The variation of the InGaN band gap with the In content ( x) in the 0 < x ≤ 0.14 range was found to follow the linear law E g = 3.44–4.5 x. The purity and the stability of the GaN and InGaN crystalline phase were investigated by RS.