The conversion efficiency of laser energy into kinetic ion energy in a laser-produced plasma has been investigated for two quite different targets: graphite and tantalum. The laser energy (intensity) varied from several mJ to 200 mJ (1O^9 to 7 x 10^10 W cm-2) which is appropriate to many applications of a laser produced ion source. The conversion efficiency as a function of the laser energy was directly determined by differential measurements of the charge, kinetic energy and angular emission distribution of the plasma ions in absolute units. Whilst for the Ta target a nearly constant efficiency of about 30% was observed, the graphite result shows an unexpectedly strong enhancement of the transfer efficiency of up to 80% in the laser intensity range around 1.5 x l0^10 W cm-2. It is assumed that the results are related to the difference in the surface roughness of the targets.