Thin films of pure aluminum doped ZnO and with addition of nitrogen, oxygen and hydrogen have been prepared by magnetron sputtering. The spectral absorption coefficient close to the band gap energy has been determined by spectrophotometry and analyzed regarding band tailing and creation of defect bands. We found, that an improvement of Raman crystallinity under O2- rich growth conditions is not accompanied by a suppression of band tailing as expected. An additional absorption feature evolves for layers grown in N2 containing atmosphere. Doping with hydrogen attenuates sub-band gap absorption.