The coupling and transmission of transverse and longitudinal fields into apertureless microfabricated near-field optical probes is investigated. Two kinds of probes with different metal coating roughness are considered. Transverse and longitudinal field distributions are obtained by focusing azimuthally and radially polarized beams produced by means of a liquid crystal plate. The focal plane is scanned using microfabricated probes in a collection mode configuration. It is found that the roughness of the metal coating plays an important role in the coupling strength of transverse fields into the probes: the relative coupling efficiency for transverse fields diminishes with a rough metal coating, while that of longitudinal fields does not. © 2004 American Institute of Physics.