We present a comparative study where carbon nanostructures were prepared by electron and ion beam methods. Thin films of 10x10 mu m(2) area were prepared and analysed by Raman analysis, nanoindentation, energy dispersive X-ray analysis (EDX) and atomic force microscopy (AFM). The material formed is not soft and graphitic, but of intermediate hardness (6-13 GPa) and with Raman spectral features similar to those of hydrogenated amorphous carbon, although it contains a significant Ga content (up to 25 at.%). This study was used to form sharp AFM supertip structures which were used to image sintered ceramic samples and films of aligned carbon nanotubes. Compared to traditional Si tips, this gave an improved rendering of the sample's aspect ratio although the resolution is limited by the diameter of the C supertips.