Different optical system variations for refractive index gradient diagnostics with a laser beam probe have been analyzed. A `three-telescope` optical system which permits simultaneous measurement of both the laser beam centroid deflection by a bi-cell photodiode and the spatial Fourier spectrum of the deflected beam by a streak camera has been implemented on the COBRA ion diode. The dynamics of the anode plasma layer was studied with these techniques. (author). 3 figs., 8 refs.