Zooming in at night remains among the tougher challenges for smartphone photography, and we're still not at a point where teles can really be relied on in the dark. But we're getting there.
Starting at 2.5x because that's the iPhone's default and the iPhone is what we've been waiting for, we know not to expect a fight from the Galaxy - it threw in the towel in mid-level zooming in good light already.
In scenes where the iPhone does, in fact, shoot with its tele camera, it captures the sharpest photos of the bunch, and then it's mostly a tie between the Xperia and the Mate. If it's dark enough that the Pro Max falls back to its main camera for 2.5x shooting, the Mate and the Xperia can actually outperform it.
As was the case on the ultra-wide camera, the Mate's 2.5x zoom shots actually do get worse in Night mode. A similar development can be seen in the Galaxy's images, and with the iPhone not having a Night mode for the tele camera and the Xperia not having a Night mode at all, here are just a couple of scenes from the Huawei and the Samsung.
Going once again to 5x zoom level, and all of a sudden, the Mate has the strongest halos around mall signs. That's about everything bad that can be said of its images, however. They are otherwise properly great. Sharp, detailed, and clean from noise, they outclass the Note's on all three counts. The Note isn't bad, and its output is a level up from the digitally zoomed-in photos of the Xperia and the iPhone, but the Mate is just superior.
Having said that, we remain unconvinced about Huawei's white balance choices - even the ones among us that don't find a particular company's color science a dealbreaker when choosing a phone.
Against our better judgment, we also tried Night mode. Images get softer on both phones (remember, only the Galaxy and the Mate have Night mode on the telephotos), though there is now some shadow detail lifted out of the extreme darkness. The Mate's output turns noisier too. Ultimately, we would refrain from Night mode in all but the most dire of situations.