Type Converter

Converting body payloads from one type to another is common when routing messages between endpoints. Conversions regularly occur between the following types:

  • File

  • String

  • byte[] and ByteBuffer

  • InputStream and OutputStream

  • Reader and Writer

  • XML payloads such as Document and Source

For example to convert the message body to XML Document type then this can be done as follows in Java:

Message message = exchange.getMessage();
Document document = message.getBody(Document.class);

Notice that the code only tells Camel what you want as the result type (Document) and not what the input type is, or how Camel should do this.

How Type Conversion works

The type conversion strategy is defined by the TypeConverter interface. The interface has several methods, however the most important and common API is:

<T> T convertTo(Class<T> type, Exchange exchange, Object value) throws TypeConversionException;

This API is used by Camel when it converts an object from one type to another. However if you pay attention then this API only has the result type in the contract. The input type is inferred from the value parameter.

There are many type converters in Camel, some comes out of the box from camel-core, and others are additional converters that are shipped in various Camel components.

Type converter registry

To keep track of all those converters, then Camel has a registry for type converters (org.apache.camel.spi.TypeConverterRegistry).

This registry keeps track of all possible type converter combinations, such as which converters that can convert to an InputStream and so forth.

So the example from before, what Camel would do is to lookup in the TypeConverterRegistry to find a suitable converter that can convert the given input value to the Document type.

The TypeConverterRegistry can be accessed via Java:

TypeConverterRegistry tcr = camelContext.getTypeConverterRegistry();
TypeConverter tc = tcr.lookup(Document.class, InputStream.class);

However often you would not work directly with the TypeConverterRegistry or TypeConverter APIs in Camel; as type conversion are often implicit in use where you would just declare the result type; and Camel takes care of this.

In Camel, all the official Camel components, comes with source code generated TypeConverter (via camel-component-maven-plugin) that allows Camel to load these converters very quickly, and invoke these type converters at runtime via quick Java method invocations (no reflection overhead).

Type converter registry utilization statistics

Camel can gather utilization statistics of the runtime usage of type converters. These statistics are available in JMX as well as from TypeConverterRegistry#getStatistics().

These statistics are turned off by default as there is some performance overhead under very high concurrent load.

Enabling statistics in Java:

CamelContext context = ...;

Enabling statistics in XML DSL:

<camelContext typeConverterStatisticsEnabled="true">

TypeConverter using @Converter annotation

All the type converters that comes out of the box are coded as Java methods on converter classes.

This means a class has been annotated with @Converter and the methods in the class becomes a type converter pair when the methods is also annotated with @Converter such as:

@Converter(generateLoader = true)
public class IOConverter {
    public static InputStream toInputStream(File file) throws FileNotFoundException {
        return new BufferedInputStream(new FileInputStream(file));

This is from camel-core where the IOConverter class has a number of converters (only 1 shown). The method toInputStream is annotated with @Converter which then becomes a type converter that can convert from File to InputStream.

All these converter classes are discovered and loaded by Camel.

Discovering Type Converters

Camel automatically discovers and loads the type converters from all JARs on the classpath at startup.

Camel searches the classpath for a file called META-INF/services/org/apache/camel/TypeConverterLoader which lists all type converter loader classes. These are automatically generated by the Camel Component Package Plugin. These loader classes will load the type converters into the Camel type converter registry and invoke them in a fast way using standard Java method calls.

Discovering Type Converters (fast way)

To enable the fast type converter way, you should enable generateLoader = true on the class level annotation as shown:

@Converter(generateLoader = true)
public class IOConverter {
    public static InputStream toInputStream(File file) throws FileNotFoundException {
        return new BufferedInputStream(new FileInputStream(file));

And then you should have the Camel Component Package Plugin in as build plugin when compiling the project.

Discovering Type Converters in the fastest way

In Camel 3.7 we optimized the type converter system for optimal performance when using the built-in converters. This was done by bulking together all the converters in the same Maven module into a single class. The class has a single convert method where all the supported converters are available and discovered in a fast way using Java primitives.

To enable this then set generateBulkLoader=true in the class @Converter annotation. You should do this for all the converter classes within the same Maven artifact. Then they will be bulked together into a single class.

@Converter(generateBulkLoader = true)
public class IOConverter {
    public static InputStream toInputStream(File file) throws FileNotFoundException {
        return new BufferedInputStream(new FileInputStream(file));

There is a few limitations:

  • fallback converters is not supported

  • the order of the @Converter methods matters. If you have multiple @Converter methods that accept as from type types which are from the same class hierachy then put the methods first that are the most concrete.

For example in camel-xml-jaxp we have in the XmlConverter multiple @Converter methods which can convert to DomSource. We had to put the method that takes org.w3c.dom.Document before the method that takes org.w3c.dom.Node as Document extends Node.

The following code shows snippet of the source code generated bulk class. As you can see we have the Document method before the Node method below:

        } else if (to == javax.xml.transform.dom.DOMSource.class) {
            if (value instanceof org.w3c.dom.Document) {
                return getXmlConverter().toDOMSource((org.w3c.dom.Document) value);
            if (value instanceof org.w3c.dom.Node) {
                return getXmlConverter().toDOMSource((org.w3c.dom.Node) value);

Returning null values

By default, when using a method in a POJO annotation with @Converter returning null is not a valid response. If null is returned, then Camel will regard that type converter as a miss, and prevent from using it in the future. If null should be allowed as a valid response, then you must specify this in the annotation (via allowNull) as shown:

@Converter(allowNull = true)
public static InputStream toInputStream(File file) throws IOException {
    if (file.exist()) {
        return new BufferedInputStream(new FileInputStream(file));
    } else {
        return null;

Fallback Type Converters

The AnnotationTypeConverterLoader has been enhanced to also look for methods defined with a @FallbackConverter annotation, and register it as a fallback type converter.

Fallback type converters are used as a last resort for converting a given value to another type. Its used when the regular type converters give up. The fallback converters is also meant for a broader scope, so its method signature is a bit different:

public static <T> T convertTo(Class<T> type, Exchange exchange, Object value, TypeConverterRegistry registry)

Or you can use the non generic signature.

public static Object convertTo(Class type, Exchange exchange, Object value, TypeConverterRegistry registry)

And the method name can be anything (convertTo is not required as a name), so it can be named convertMySpecialTypes if you like.
The Exchange parameter is optional, just as its with the regular @Converter methods.

The purpose with this broad scope method signature is allowing you to control if you can convert the given type or not. The type parameter holds the type we want the value converted to. Its used internally in Camel for wrapper objects so we can delegate the type convertions to the body that is wrapped.

For instance in the method below we will handle all type conversions that is based on the wrapper class GenericFile and we let Camel do the type conversions on its body instead.

public static <T> T convertTo(Class<T> type, Exchange exchange, Object value, TypeConverterRegistry registry) {
    // use a fallback type converter so we can convert the embedded body
    // if the value is GenericFile
    if (GenericFile.class.isAssignableFrom(value.getClass())) {
        GenericFile file = (GenericFile) value;
        Class from = file.getBody().getClass();
        TypeConverter tc = registry.lookup(type, from);
        if (tc != null) {
            Object body = file.getBody();
            return tc.convertTo(type, exchange, body);
    return null;

Writing your own Type Converters

You are welcome to write your own converters. Remember to use the @Converter annotations on the classes and methods you wish to use. And on the top-level class add Converter(generateLoader = true) to support the fast way of using type converters.

  • static methods are encouraged to reduce caching, but instance methods are fine, particularly if you want to allow optional dependency injection to customize the converter

  • converter methods should be thread safe and reentrant

Exchange parameter

The type converter accepts the Exchange as an optional 2nd parameter. This is usable if the type converter for instance needs information from the current exchange. For instance combined with the encoding support its possible for type converters to convert with the configured encoding. An example from camel-core for the byte[]String converter:

public static String toString(byte[] data, Exchange exchange) {
    String charsetName = exchange.getProperty(Exchange.CHARSET_NAME, String.class);
    if (charsetName != null) {
        try {
            return new String(data, charsetName);
        } catch (UnsupportedEncodingException e) {
            // ignore
        return new String(data);