In recent years amorphous carbon coatings found growing interest because of their optical and protective properties. We have deposited hydrogenated amorphous carbon films (a-C:H) from an RF excited discharge in benzene vapour. Substrates include germanium, glass and MgF2. The refractive index can be tuned between 1.8 and 2.2 and efficient antireflection coatings on Ge have been prepared. We have determined the optical absorption from the UV to the IR range (0.2 - 25 μm). A typical 1 µm thick a-C:H film is transparent (> 50% transmission) from 750 nm to the far infrared. Amorphous carbon films are harder than sapphire and are resistant to concentrated acids and bases.