I invested in LightRoom 5, plus the NIK Collection for it. And also DxO. To learn LR, I bought Scott Kelby's book on the new version. From one week of use, I can see that you cannot apply the term SEAMLESS to LR.
DxO was far more automated. I hear the Workflow in AP is the best. I was having Mac troubles at the time and couldn't connect to the Apple Store to buy it. So, I went the other direction.
I'm so new I don't fully comprehend the term Workflow. When I do, and if I deem LR too clunky, I can always sell it on eBay and recoup my cost. So, I've got to learn more, but at least knowing about the NIK plugins, I don't feel backed into a corner. I think I'll visit the physical Apple Store in nearby Santa Monica and get a demonstration and ask questions.
As you can tell, when it comes to DSLR, I've got more enthusiasm than common sense.
I use Aperture 3 and the NIK suite. I don't have experience with Lightroom, however, I can say that NIK plugins with Aperture are easy to use.
While sharpening and noise reduction are available in both LR and Aperture, the NIK tools provide much more versatility and control. The only NIK tools I don't use very much are the RAW pre-sharpner and HDR tools. The others are part of my usual workflow.
Hope that helps.
"Red is gray and yellow white, but we decide which is right ....and which is an illusion"
I use the HDR Efex Pro 2 plugin all the time, it's indispensable - nothing else does what it does. I also use Color Efex Pro quite a bit - the details enhancer can work wonders on some images. Yes, these integrate great with aperture.
I have the Nik suit too and using it for years in Aperture.
I've used both Lightroom and Aperture from their beginnings. Aperture 1 was not great - I moved to LR when it came out.
I never could get used to the LR way of working, and missed the ease of Aperture. When Aperture 2 came out, I moved back and never have looked back. I find Aperture so much easier UI and can get things done so much faster in Aperture.
I still check out the LR each update, but just do not like the module UI.
As to the quality of the processed photos - LR & Aperture turn out great results. Comparable - for me it's just the ease that wins me to Aperture.
It has now been about 5 weeks since I installed Aperture and have been using it. Strangely, the little booklet "Exploring AP" didn't penetrate. And that's odd, because I far prefer learning from books than watching videos. I think the elementary school tone made me want to skip pages.
The program is wonderful. And I am learning more having acquired a used copy of the Apple Pro Training Series Book. I attribute my slowness to the fact that I haven't taken any images since May and so I can't follow through on the normal workflow. Knee replacement surgery has me housebound.
To my thinking, AP follows the typical Mac pattern innovative thinking about dealing with tasks, rather than cookie cutter 1-2-3. This goes for the UI, too. And all this is an advantage. But it then becomes a hand-eye coordination pattern of learning, and so I haven't had the practice needed in make procedures ingrained. Not yet, anyway.
Specifically, I need to practice all the Keyboard Shortcuts so as to be fast and productive.
But I must, and soon. Ahead of me is an iceberg. A friend of mine owns a Nikon Coolscan and he volunteered to digitize my film library of over 200 33mm rolls of B&W, plus about 50 rolls of slides. At present my AP library contains about 1800 images. But this will quadruple. So, I need to get ready with tons of keywords and project names to organize it all.
I'm not prone to nostalgia, and the bulk of this old stuff is me riding around in the canyons and deserts of Southern California on racing motorcycles. Blah, to all that. The hidden gems are the opportunity i had to photograph the only flying B-29 in the world when it came to Los Angeles in 2000. My partner at the airlines was a B-29 Captain and he knew the pilot who flew it in from Texas, so I had exclusive access to the plane for nearly a week.
And those B&W presets will be used to good advantage.
I use Nik software as well, particularly the Silver Plug In school for me is the best B&W converter out there at the moment, it is absolutely amazing and for me indispensable, I have the whole collection but that one I use all the time.
Your question is a bit difficult to answer as they seem to do the same thing. I use Viveza when I can't quite get a simple area adjustment in Aperture. Color Efex offers a wider range of more global preset adjustments. Admittedly, I seldom use Vivexa, but once I really learned it I find it is a convenient simple GO TO.
OK, I'll take a crack at this one based on my experience with both.
Color Efex Pro is basically a collection of filter effects that are primarily (in my opinion) useful for modifying the entire image. I know it is possible to apply them selectively using control points, but I tend not to work that way too much. One of the big advances of Color Efex Pro 4 was the ability to stack multiple filters without having to do multiple round trips.
Viveza is primarily (again IMO) for making local adjustments in an image using control points. It is a way of making novel kinds of masks (using Nik's U-point technology) to selectively modify certain elements of an image in a way that is fundamentally different from the results you get from other masking tools (such as Photoshop or Perfect Photo Suite). The one global adjustment in Viveza that I find useful is Structure, but with Color Efex Pro 4 I find I use the Detail Extractor filter sometimes instead when I'm trying to globally boost micro-contrast.
I often use both Color Efex Pro and Viveza on the same image on my way to a final result.